TDSB chair: Financial implications of Ford gov't program cuts not clear
Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Sunday, December 16, 2018 2:24PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 16, 2018 3:20PM EST
The chair of the Toronto District School Board says it is unclear how the Ford government’s cuts to specialized school programs across the province will impact the board financially.
“We know some programs have been cut. We know some have been changed. We know some are the same and there is a large group that we have received no information on,” Robin Pilkey, chair of the TDSB, told CP24 Sunday.
Kayla Iafelice, a spokesperson for the minister of education said the cuts, which will be felt at boards across Ontario, total $25 million.
In an emailed statement to The Canadian Press, Iafelice said the fund has "a long track record of wasteful spending, overspending and millions of dollars of unfunded commitments."
At the TDSB, the cuts impact 11 grants through the fund Education Programming- Other (EPO), Pilkey said.
According to Pilkey, one of the grants that has been cancelled includes the after-school initiative Focus on Youth Toronto, which aims to support children and youth in Toronto’s inner city areas.
A program which supports racialized students and an in-class tutoring program are also among the cancelled or discontinued grants.
Seventeen grants will continue as planned and Pilkey said 14 grants that were announced in March were not even mentioned in the letter school board administrators received from the ministry on Friday night.
“The way these grants work, they often highlight the government’s priorities and they are for specific items. So we would have been told in March that we were getting these grants,” Pilkey noted.
“We would certainly hope that the government is going to keep the school boards whole, that the money that has been spent up until now will be provided by the government because that information is not clear yet.”
Pilkey said in the coming weeks, trustees and school administrators will be looking at exactly how this will impact the board financially.
"We will be getting information in early January about what the exact implications of this have been for us," she added. "(We will be) seeing what is going to change in terms of staffing and programming."
Marit Stiles, the Ontario NDP’s education critic, called the cuts and the timing of them “concerning.”
She called into question why the ministry sent out emails to board administrators after school hours on a Friday and just one day after public consultations on Ontario's education system concluded.
“It calls into question, I think, whether that consultation was really just a sham,” Stiles said.
She added that the government has not said if it intends to replace any of the programs that are being scrapped.
“Some of those programs are important ones that particularly help the most vulnerable students. That’s why they were set up,” she said. “And although this group of programs and projects were set up by the previous Liberal government, it doesn’t mean they aren’t useful.”
She said this latest move by the province will not be the end of cuts to school boards.
“We know that the government has asked school boards to look for four per cent budget cuts by Friday. So they haven’t even considered that information yet. Four per cent of the education budget in Ontario is about a billion dollars. So there is no way that doesn’t impact students in schools,” she said.
Stiles said she plans to “push back” and raise the issue with the minister of education.
“I think we need some clarity, some answers to questions about how they expect our schools to keep up and our school boards to make ends meet,” she said. “And I think we need some answers about about why that thought why some of these programs weren’t working.”
-With files from The Canadian Press