TORONTO - Catholic School Boards are in an increasingly precarious position. As enrollment drops their special position is under increasing scrutiny. The TCDSB, Ontario’s largest Catholic District School Board by virtue of is size should/could play a significant role in protecting and advancing the Educational rights they enjoy in Law.
It is an open secret that the constitutional right of Catholics to their own separate schools system in Ontario is under public and political scrutiny. Historical “allies” in the Ontario Legislature - the Liberal Party – have been reduced to “fringe” status.
Their current “leadership” is openly advocating for the elimination of publicly funded, faith-based education. Nothing new here. Even once powerful Cabinet Ministers like Greg Sorbara had been accustomed to musing openly about the amalgamation of public and separate school boards.
His Federal cousins under Justin Trudeau’s leadership appear to have adopted an immigration plan that deliberately excludes traditional “catholic” constituencies from Europe and the Middle East (Coptic Christians, Greeks, Italians, Polish, Portuguese and Slavs from South-East Europe) that the system was designed to serve. Their motives in this regard are open to debate.
The NDP have barely tolerated its existence. Their ideological priorities lie elsewhere. The recent kerfuµe involving advertising by third parties in the chaotic teachers-government contract negotiations are a case in point.
They have called for an Elections Ontario investigation into the legality and ethics of an organization whose advertising dollars are being spent to advocate against teachers. They claim that the organization, Vaughan Working Families, is aliated with the Conservative government. A TCDSB trustee, Norm Di Pasquale, part of the [informal] NDP caucus within the TCDSB that thinks Catholic board is not “inclusive” enough, has been reported as a vocal stimulant of that position.
This represents an unnecessary “politicization” of an issue arguably beyond the scope of the Board’s jurisdiction. The TCDSB, whose schools and students continually perform at the lowest of levels in the provincial tests for reading and writing, does not have a role in negotiations.
In fact, school boards and trustees don’t establish curricula (educational goals and strategies), the tax base for educational expenditures or the qualifications of instructional staff. Negotiations are about the allocation of those resources. What trustees are expected to do is administer and manage human and material resources allocated by the Province in a fashion most productive for the families and they children they serve.
The trustees currently at the TCDSB, flushed with cash that accrues to them because of a funding anomaly – Education Development Charges - not available to their co-terminus public school board, the TDSB, have not only turned their backs on Catholic values and educational goals, they seem to have embraced a new role as fullfledged property developers.
One trustee in particular in the last eight years has been responsible for expenditures of (1) $25.48 million to acquire the school and property at Loretto Abbey, without remediating the premises of carcinogenic asbestos material – the TCDSB needs to do so now or the building risks being labelled a health hazard; (2) $23 million for the Columbus Centre so as to facilitate a condominium park from which it stood to gain approximately $1,493.00 (now $1,793.00 ) in Education Development Charges planned per residential unit planned – it has gone nowhere so far; (3) $25 million on the acquisition of the old convent of the Sisters of the Good Sheppard – it sits empty.
That trustee, Maria Rizzo, on Monday will host a second community meeting to promote her Redevelopment Project at Dante Alighieri Academy on 60 Playfair Ave. to use up the $34 million the Province under a former Liberal government had earmarked initially for “upgrading” Regina Mundi elementary and Dante.
She proposes to relocate the Dante students to a Norfinch Ave site 11.5 km to the northwest; move the Regina children into Dante along with pre-schoolers from the Daycare at Villa Charities Inc/Columbus Centre; demolish Regina Mundi and reconstruct Dante on the Convent site – all to start in June 2020. The purpose?
The provincial government is beating the drum of fiscal responsibility and education (cognitive learning) reform. Rather than beat up on teachers, it is exploring “reigning in” errant Boards like the TCDSB. Sources close to government are exploring eliminating their “veneer of independence” that comes with election and substituting them with appointed Boards of Directors.
Who will stand up for Catholic education then?
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