Tuesday, April 24, 2007

To Donate or not to donate, that is the Question...

Ontario's Education Minister Kathleen Wynne

To Donate or Not to Donate for Your School Boards, that is the Question:
Parents can now raise money for school auditoriums, additions, even a pool – any major construction – under policy changes adopted by the Peel School District board that are raising fears of a two-tier system.

In the past, some School Boards accept donation from parents for minor school project, but it was never an official policy of any District School Boards to raise funds from parents purposely for Capital projects.

But some Fifteen Years ago, the power of taxation was taken off the School Board to raise taxes for shortfall on the Boards budget and some affluent districts or communities have been accepting voluntary donations from parents, some for major project such as auditoriums, swimming pools or any major constructions. And it sparks fear over a Tow - Tier system.

Before I go on, secondary education in Ontario as well as the whole of Canada is publicly funded and is guaranteed to be Equally accessible to all Canadians and legal residents. Simply means what’s good for little Johnny or Zvi is also good for Juan or Ali or Chi Kuang Ho.

And here again, we listen to what the people whose words and actions matters most say about the issue:

From the Chair of Peel District School Board who started the ball rolling, Janet McDougald:

In the past, parents have raised funds for such things as computers and playground climbers, but in recent years groups have come forward who want to contribute "in a big way," by financing a renovation or even purchasing a portable."

Our policy did not address fundraising projects such as that," said McDougald. "We are definitely, in Peel, open for business and we welcome all opportunities that would increase success for our kids and opportunities – we want to be able to entertain these kinds of things.

My question for Jane: How about in some district where parents can’t afford to donate a portable, can we send their children to your school? Just you wait and Janet has already some kind of answer to this query.

But the trend is not setting well with some, especially this, from the Catholic School Board,
Oliver Carroll, Chair of Toronto Catholic District School Board:

You are just asking for trouble. The discussion have been a non-starter for my board. It divides communities when it’s over and done with.

Annie Kidder, People for Education advocacy group also added:

It’s a two ties of funding education, in an area where parents have the time and the money, a school might get a gym but what about a school in less affluent areas?

Answered Back Janet (I told you so):

We'll try to address some inequities. If we could have a community build us a bigger library or resource centre, or refurbish a science lab, that would be money freed up that could go to a school that doesn't have those things.

It's not perfect, it will create some inequities and the board is fully aware of that, but we have to take advantage of those (fundraising) opportunities.

Hold it a minute there Janet. Section 15 of our Charter, which deals with Equality is very clear about your last statement. I’m afraid somebody, sometimes in the future will challenge your Board policy and it will invalidate that specific one, then what?

Well, Janet is quite fully prepared and here’s more she wants to add:

While there have been no proposals since the policy changes were passed at the board's March 27 meeting, future projects will have to undergo a "viability review" to ensure the board can afford any ongoing costs and maintenance.
If someone wants to put air conditioning in a school, that's the small cost,"
We want to make sure that whatever is being built is consistent with our planning and our board goals.
If the community wants a swimming pool, but that school really needs a science lab ... we might say, `We want to work with you, but could you see a way to fulfill this priority

But Anne Kidder is not done yet. Remember her?, the Education for People advocate:

Kidder said the issue speaks to the funding problems boards face, because no government in recent years has paid attention to the spiralling costs of renovating, building or repairing schools, not to mention heating and lighting them.
"Schools do need upgrading and they do need work,". "I don't think they're all totally falling to pieces, but if you are a parent and you can see the need in your own school, I understand the desire to fix up your school.
"But governments are supposed to make sure that all schools are great, and when you rely on fundraising that's not going to happen."

Well, most had said their piece already, oh wait a minute, before I go to the one most important person, here another from the man of the cloth.

Rev. Stefan Wolf, parent council chair at Glenhaven Senior Public School in Mississauga:
(Mississauga is one of the cities composing the Peel Region)

In recent years the board has poured a lot of money into renovations and upgrades to the gym, windows, entrances, schoolyard and parking lot.
We are very pleased with the Peel board. However, the school is located in a highly transient neighbourhood that's considered at-risk, and fundraising is difficult. If it was up to the parents to fundraise for such building amendments, we wouldn't be able to do it."

And now for the Important Character, Ontario Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne (show us the Money).

While fundraising in general raises equity concerns, it is up to boards to set their own policies.

I don't think any board would want to see one school develop to the disadvantage of others, she said, adding she wasn't aware of any others following the Peel's lead.
"It's a delicate issue because trustees are responsible for all schools in their board," she said. "They have to make decisions that allow schools to be in relatively equal position."
Wynne noted the province has given boards money that allows them to leverage $4 billion for capital projects, which she called "a good start."

Me and my little message to the Honourable Minister: Threading a delicate line there Minister, but overall you have done a good job, actually an excellent job, too bad your admirer is a Conservative and will campaign against your party this fall election, but personally I wish you the Best....

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