Create diversions to distract from the agenda

di Joe Volpe del February 12, 2020

TORONTO - It’s all about the money. How much and where it will be distributed is the public policy question. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. I think Minister Lecce understands that but someone else is calling the shots.

The Ontario Legislature approved a Budget (Consolidated and other adjustments) total for the Ministry of Education of $29,417,417,392 for 2018-19 and $30,196,305,392 for 2019-20, a difference of + $778,888,000. These seem like really big numbers.

Keep in mind that the last number is only 2.6% of the 2018-19 total budget for education.

Of the budgeted amount for 2019-20, only $25,247,558,200 is allocated for the Elementary and Secondary Education Program schools. Teachers salaries and benefits account for between 80% and 83% of that amount.

Were the Unions to succeed in their claim for a 2% increase, an additional $504,951,164 would accrue to instructional programs – not $750 million as the rhetoric would have us accept.

It is not the Corriere’s intention to divert water to the “Unions’ mill” nor to provide them with [questionable?] free communications advice.

If their goal is to win the public over to their side, they should “get o¢ their rear end”.

Minister Lecce met with the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada on February 10, during which meeting he outlined the government’s objectives in getting an Agreement the public will accept – his bases for negotiations. You argue if you will.

First, without defining merit, he would eliminate the concept of seniority (experience) over qualifications. Second, address the issue of [teacher] absenteeism (costs $650 million annually for sick leave; even if it is compensation issue, it is in the government’s mind, now a question of truancy).

Third, prioritize structures over salaries. Fourth, move increasingly to online courses. Fifth, protect all day kindergarten classes.

The Minister’s presentation of the “goodies” he was representing as the government’s plan resembled the parsley Italian cuisine demands be sprinkled on every course.

Cute, cunning and pointed in its delivery, his presentation touched everything from mental health, bullying, testing, “conscience rights”, repair backlogs and a condemnation of programs like “discovery math”.

In a word, to paraphrase him, the system was set up for teachers, we [the government] are trying to make it work for students.

In this environment, it is unclear whether School Boards - like the TCDSB - are friends or foes of the parent, student and teacher communities the system is supposed to serve.

That same evening some 300 such members crowded into the Dante Alighieri Academy theatre to listen to yet another proposal to relocate students as part of a package to resolve two central issues, one of them being a critical and urgent need to remediate the conditions at Loretto Abbey High School.

Four (4) studies commissioned to examine structural viability, boiler/electrical/hvac systems and engineering and architectural feasibility of remediations in context where mould and asbestos dust pose a health hazard strongly suggest that the place should be vacated – sooner rather than later if the reconstruction is to have its desired outcome.

The TCDSB paid $25.480 Million (plus other “soft costs”) for the school in 2011. It will need another $42,500,000 to do the remediation. It has not asked the Provincial government for the authority nor sought the appropriate permits from the various regulating jurisdictions governing the removal of toxic and carcinogenic products.

But it is going through the motions of “public consultations”. That is what the meeting at Dante appears to have as a function.

There were not many – if any – who thought the proposals presented for the Regina Mundi Elementary and Dante Academy were either desirable or necessary.

In fact, the only real purpose seems to be the desire on the part of Trustee Rizzo to use up the $34 Million allocated for the project, 10 years ago (note to readers: $ 3 million was used up in Consultants fees as the TCDSB pursued a condo project with Villa Charities Inc).

Gianfranco Cristiano, who had attended a similar meeting in June of 2018 asked if the Board had sought a building permit and, irrespective of the answer, what the cost would be today.

The answers were succinct: “no, we’re in pre-consultation with the City Planning department so that we do no have to trigger a site plan proposal just yet”, and, the estimated cost today would be and additional $11 million on top of the original $34 million.

Minister Lecce must be asking, “what’s the purpose of this?” and why are they (TCDSB) making the government complicit in the law suits that will surely flow from their “dilly-dallying” negligence at Loretto Abbey?


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