6.14.2014

Thank you, thank you Toronto Centre

I'm the first to admit, "Mark Daye becoming the first elected Green MPP in Ontario's history" was a long shot. 

But it's good to have goals. 

Mark Daye,
 Toronto Centre GPO Candidate 2014
On election day, I wanted to double my 2011 results when I was the choice of 1,123 Toronto Centre voters.

I'm proud to report that on election day 2014, 2,265 Toronto Centre residents made the choice for change:

- the choice to fix our school system and say it's time to end the discrimination and waste

- the choice for home retrofits instead of re-tooled nuclear power

- the choice to protect our prime farmland and drinking water


These are not fringe issues. These are good ideas. These are the issues that affect Ontarians every day. 

Unfortunately, good ideas have a tough time in our broken electoral system that is dominated by fear rather than hope.

As we take a moment to catch our breath, I want to thank everyone who donated their time, talents and money to my campaign.

It all helps as we 
take this small success and continue to grow the Green Party  in Toronto Centre and work for a better future for us all.

I hope you will continue on this journey with me.

Mark Daye,
Toronto Centre GPO Candidate 2014

6.05.2014

Fairness and Savings in Ontario’s Education System

With regard to: 

Could Greens save $1 billion merging school boards?



Fairness and Savings in Ontario’s Education System

Reporter Donovan Vincent’s recent article (Could Greens save $1 billion…?”, June 4) “testing the claim” of the Green Party of Ontario to over $1 billion in annual savings by merging Ontario’s overlapping public and Catholic school systems was incomplete in that it did not really delve into arguments supporting the claim.

The “last massive amalgamation effort” that People for Education’s Annie Kidder spoke of in the article involved the 1998 merger of adjacent school boards, not overlapping ones.  According to the report of the School Board Reduction Task Force that advised that exercise, nearly all of the 1296 responses to their interim report disagreed with the Task Force's mandate forbidding them from even considering the merger of overlapping public and Catholic school boards.  Everyone without a vested interest in the status quo knew that this was where the most significant savings were to be found and the Task Force believed the sentiment was so strong it warranted special mention.

For clear evidence of the savings possible by merging the public and Catholic school systems, one need only look at the significant disparity in funding between school boards serving the same area.

In Ontario, almost without exception, smaller school boards with more geographically dispersed schools and students receive significantly higher funding on a per pupil basis (total funding divided by total enrolment) than their larger counterparts in the same area.  This is not favoritism.  This is the Ministry of Education recognizing that Ontario’s smaller school boards cannot realize the same economies and efficiencies as their larger counterparts and therefore need higher funding to offer a comparable quality of education.

In Green Party leader Mike Schreiner’s Guelph area riding, for example, the English Catholic, French Catholic, and French public school boards receive 6%, 35%, and 50% higher funding on a per pupil basis than the English public school board.

In education, costs are not solely determined by the number of students, but by the manner in which we chose to serve them.  In Ontario, we chose a very costly way.

Would we tolerate two fire stations in every community – one to serve two of three houses on each street and the other to serve the remainder?  Or two gas utilities with separate infrastructures?  Of course not – yet we tolerate exactly this type of costly duplication and overlap in education every day.

Ontario school boards currently bus hundreds of thousands of children past their nearest publicly funded school each day to attend another one farther away – often in another community.  Many children have never attended a school in their own community – even though their community may have a perfectly good publicly funded school.  Who can deny that is costly?  Who can deny that affects student quality of life and the environment?

With declining enrolment, surplus pupil places (empty seats) have ballooned from 120,000 in 2002-03, just before the Liberals took power, to over 416,000 today.  A Greater Essex County District School Board spokesman recently pegged the cost of their surplus places at $1000 per year – a figure other trustees have told me they believe to be lower than actual.  That figure implies at least “hundreds of millions” of dollars a year going to maintain empty space, which coincidentally was the phrase Education Minister Liz Sandals herself used to describe the order of sums involved.  As a minimum, surplus pupil places should be reduced to at least 2002-03 levels when the student population was greater than today, implying a reduction of at least 300,000 pupil places and a savings of at least $300 million per year going forward.

A reduction of this magnitude implies hundreds of school closings.  This can be done – but this can only be done without significant detrimental impact on Ontario neighbourhoods and communities if we merge the best of the public and Catholic school systems into one school system at the same time.  The alternative is to close schools while condemning even more kids to needlessly long commutes to ever more distant schools. 

Education Minister Liz Sandals has been promoting the even less sensible approach of bashing under-enrolled and still separate public and Catholic schools together in the same building with their separate but similar split grade classes and their separate but similar administrations intact.  School will still close, but the Ontario educational landscape will be messier and more nonsensical than ever.

One other saving to be realized by the move to one school system would be the movement of at least some students to private religious schools.  If only 2-5% of Catholic students were to move to private religious schools, additional savings of $140-350 million per year would be realized.

It is pretty clear the savings from a move to one school system are not “nickels and dimes”.  It is time our cash-strapped, heavily indebted government got on with the task.  If the financial benefits are not enough to sway them, then perhaps someday at least they might want to respect all Ontarians as equals before and under the law.

Canada has twice been censured by the UN Human Rights Committee for the religious discrimination whereby Ontario funds the religious schools of the Catholic faith exclusively.  Ontario Superior Court Justice David Corbett recently (Oct 2013) described those censures as “a signal from the United Nations that s. 93 of the Canadian constitution [the section concerning Catholic school funding] offends international human rights norms.”

People for Education does some great work contributing to education related discourse in Ontario – except, strangely, when it comes to the issue of public and Catholic school board mergers.  There, its arguments are little more than flimsy assertions that the savings would be insignificant.  In the absence of evidence to support that claim, they should at least disclose the significant funding they receive from the government whose wasteful and discriminatory school system they defend.

Kathleen Wynne and other defenders of Ontario’s wasteful and discriminatory “school system as it exists” will have to come up with some compelling reasons for taking that position – if any can be found.  Because I can assure them, this issue is not going away.  As taxes mount, hydro rates soar, and our truly essential services go wanting for adequate funding, the calls to eliminate the completely unnecessary duplication and overlap in our school system will only grow louder and louder.

Leonard Baak
President, OneSchoolSystem.org, Ottawa
leonard@OneSchoolSystem.org

Leonard Baak is an Ottawa based software engineer who started OneSchoolSystem.org with two other Ottawa area parents in 2004 to push for the merger of Ontario’s public and Catholic school systems into one school system for each official language.

5.28.2014

Mama Wynne shuts down Olivier

Morning North CBC Sudbury -

Sudbury Liberal candidate Andrew Olivier interview where he expressed support for merging the public and Catholic school systems. 

Listen for yourself. Interesting his retraction came shortly after Kathleen Wynne visited his riding personally yesterday, isn't it?

So much for thinking for yourself!

http://www.cbc.ca/m/touch/canada/toronto/story/1.2655636