POOLS AND CHILDCARE: FUNDING FOR SCHOOL SPACE
It has been an eventful month in relation to use of school space and our relationship with the City of Toronto. The City has just approved its 2017 budget, with mixed impact on our schools.Twenty years ago when the Province, under then Premier Mike Harris, changed the ways schools are funded, they stopped paying operating costs for childcare centres, pools and other functions that government deemed to not be “instructional space”.
This a) forced a rethink between the City and the Board on shared use of pools, and b) almost caused a dramatic increase in childcare costs. In the case of pools, the City has continued with many pools to lease them, with a lease value that covers the operating costs of these pools, and offer city-run programs there. In the case of childcare, the City stepped in some twenty years ago and offered an “occupancy grant” to school boards to cover those unfunded costs.
This year the City of Toronto, based on direction from the Mayor to cut the budget by 2.6% opted to reconsider these commitments.
Last month, following a motion I moved at the Board, trustees joined parents and childcare advocates to fight the proposed cuts to childcare occupancy grants. I’m go glad to be able to report that we won! City Council agreed to maintain the childcare grant — at least for one more year.
With pools, we were not so fortunate. The City unexpectedly terminated its support for three pools last year, and by way of this budget terminated it support for three more, including SH Armstrong right here in our part of the city.
At a time when all levels of government are interested in supporting community hubs (which SH Armstrong/Duke of Connaught truly is), and addressing declining rates of activity for kids and youth, this decision is unsettling. It’s also hard to understand why the City would choose to cancel swim programs when so many parents talk of how hard it is to get into them in the first place.
I will continue to work with our hard-working parents and community advocates and with our area Councillors, Paula Fletcher, Mary Margaret McMahon, Mary Fragedakis and Janet Davis, to defend and protect our east-end pools, and pools throughout the city that are shared between the TDSB and the City. As the agreement that affects some 30 more pools is up for renewal this summer, you will no doubt hear more about this issue in the coming months.
It’s also important that we call on the Provincial government to step in and reconsider its funding of these spaces. They are both places of important learning for our kids, and should be valued and funded accordingly. I will be working with my Trustee colleagues to raise these concerns with the provincial government as well.