[URBAN NOTE] “TDSB should be ashamed of how it balances budget”
I agree entirely with the Toronto Star‘s Edward Keenan on this one. How can the people in the Toronto District School Board raid a fund earmarked for at-need children and still be able to go to sleep at night?
Imagine if a neighbourhood community group was given a grant specifically to set up a food bank to feed the hungry and impoverished among them, and instead it spent half of that money on local park improvements. When asked, they’d point out that they couldn’t otherwise afford the park improvements, and they benefit everyone, including the hungry and impoverished. Would that be OK?
Well, no, I don’t think so. Because they were given the money for the explicit purpose of serving a specific need. Because it was supposed to be targeted to the neediest, not to the general benefit of everyone. It was an attempt to level the playing field, not to re-sod the entire yard in its existing imbalanced state so everyone could enjoy the nice lawn at whatever relative height they already stood.
I think this it is analogous to the situation at the Toronto District School Board, which is taking money it is given specifically to serve the needs of socio-economically disadvantaged children, and using 48 per cent of it instead to balance its general budget. That’s the inescapable conclusion of a report from Social Planning Toronto my colleague Andrea Gordon has reported on last week, based on numbers provided by the school board itself: that in order to pay for things across the system – like elementary school principals’ salaries, regional outdoor education centres and classroom computers – it has been diverting money given to it by the province that is intended specifically to provide special programs and resources for those at risk.
This is funding the needs of everyone — including the most affluent and advantaged students in the city — by raiding the funding given for the most disadvantaged. It’s shameful.
Yet board director John Malloy didn’t express shame when speaking to reporters, the Star reported. Instead he sought to defend the practice, saying, “It is directly connected to student achievement. It does support our students at risk, but it also supports their classmates as well.” Some of the money, he said, was used to pay for things that support students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, which, he “emphatically” pointed out, is in line with what the “regulation expects.”