As Minister of Education, I know schools are the heart of a community. We know that there are a number of difficult discussions that are taking place between local school boards and parents about the future of the schools in their area – especially in rural and remote communities.
I am continuing to encourage the Boards to have active and meaningful conversations with their municipality and the parents to find solutions that work best for the community, while ensuring students have an equal opportunity for an excellent education.
We have taken great strides in ensuring student success and building up our public school system. In 2003, we inherited a broken and under-funded education system. We moved forward and made the necessary investments in our students and our schools. We have done this by increasing per-student funding by 63% and investing more than $16 billion in school infrastructure – including nearly 450 new and improved schools in rural Ontario. We have made changes to the education funding formula to be less dependent on enrolment – in fact, per-student funding for rural school boards is now about $1,000 more than in urban boards. We are also moving forward with our commitment to provide secure, affordable broadband access to all Ontario students and educators, especially in rural and remote parts of the province to enable equitable access to innovative e-learning opportunities.
But we know that there are communities still concerned about the status of their schools.
This is why, I along with my colleague Minister Chiarelli sent a joint letter to school boards and municipalities yesterday to provide an update on our government’s commitment to finding solutions that meet the needs of Ontario’s students and communities. We are demonstrating this commitment by working with local leaders to:
- Pursue more opportunities for school boards to share space with each other, particularly if doing so will maintain a school presence in a rural or isolated community. Going forward, we will be reviewing all school board requests for capital funding to ensure joint-use between boards has been pursued before funding is granted.
- Encourage and support more opportunities for community hubs to use excess space in schools by facilitating collaborative local partnerships, including through capital investments to retrofit space for community use and by hosting a Community Hubs Summit in May.
- Ensure school boards and municipalities are working together to jointly plan and consider community impacts. We will be working with municipalities and school boards on how to best include community impacts in the pupil accommodation process, so that school trustees can understand these impacts alongside impacts on student achievement, transportation and outcomes
- Launch an engagement on new approaches to supporting education in rural and remote communities, led by three Parliamentary Assistants, MPPs Granville Anderson, Grant Crack, and Lou Rinaldi, to gather feedback across Ontario on how we can further strengthen the future of rural education.
It is our hope that this engagement will allow us to highlight opportunities that will proactively enhance the quality and delivery of education in rural and remote communities in Ontario.
Patrick Brown has no plans on how to build up our education system in rural Ontario, but his proposed arbitrary moratorium on school closures would limit locally-elected school boards from collaborating with their communities and implementing creative solutions based on the needs of their students and their communities. Mr. Brown has not specified how long his moratorium would be in place, what the cost would be or if new modern schools under construction would be halted in the meantime.
It is our government’s expectation that all school boards will continue consulting with their local community and municipalities to provide the best programming and overall classroom experience that supports student achievement and well-being.
Minister of Education for Ontario
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