TORONTO — Years of fiscal mismanagement and lack of oversight are to blame for the Toronto school board’s multimillion-dollar budget shortfall, not a round of funding cuts by the province, Premier Doug Ford said Tuesday.
The Toronto District School Board has said it plans to cut some jobs, programs and services in order to close a $67-million funding gap — $42 million of which it attributes to recent cuts by the Progressive Conservative government.
Ford disputed those figures, calling their release premature and “absolutely reckless,” adding that school boards in the province were “out of control.”
“Political stunts like this only serve to cause anxiety with parents and with students” he said. “Over the past 15 years there’s been zero oversight ... and accountability with the education spending at our school boards.”
Political stunts like this only serve to cause anxiety with parents and with students.Premier Doug Ford
Ford did not say how the TDSB’s figures were incorrect, but went on to outline examples of what he called waste at the school board.
“For seven hours, they hired someone to hang three pictures _ seven hours” he said, citing a media report from 2012. “But it gets even better: They called the same company up that spent seven hours hanging three pictures to come two days later, and they took eight hours to hang three more pictures up.”
Education Minister Lisa Thompson also disputed the TDSB’s figures, saying the cuts by the province amount to roughly half — or $21 million — of those claimed by the board.
“I see the numbers, I see the waste and I see opportunities ... for school boards to realize efficiencies within their own administration” she said.
The Tory government has said the Toronto school board has to do its part to help the province address a multibillion-dollar deficit.
Board could consolidate as many as 10 schools
TDSB education director John Malloy said Monday that the board could stop busing French immersion students, cut some learning centre staff jobs and administrator roles to find savings. It could also consolidate up to 10 schools, reduce the number of itinerant music teachers and cut the elementary international baccalaureate program.
However, Malloy said the board is not recommending substantial changes to special education funding, school safety, and equity and diversity programs.
“This is very hard because we know attached to every one of these decisions are students and communities who are being served by those resources” he said.
When asked Tuesday about Ford’s comments, Malloy said the board stood by its figures.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Tory government’s funding cuts would end up hurting the education system, while interim Liberal leader John Fraser said Ford was trying to undermine the credibility of the TDSB.
Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the province’s education cuts amount to a download of Ontario’s fiscal challenges unto the backs of school boards.
“He (Ford) doesn’t seem to be able to work with other levels of government” Schreiner said. “He doesn’t seem to be able to build things up and talk about his vision for Ontario.”
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