Public education beyond the pandemic

William Paul  – 2020-05-20

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities



This could have been written ten minutes ago.

In the New Yorker recently, writer John Cassidy raised the possibility of some good that might come in the aftermath of the COVID -19 pandemic, but worried about the other shoe dropping. On the one hand, he explained, there is the “argument for universal health care (in the U.S.) competent government and better treatment for members of the working class – such as nurses, transit workers, supermarket clerks and employees at food-processing plants…”  Simple things like decent wages and benefits, safe working conditions, planning and adequate health care – all on the radar after decades of attacks and retrenchment.

But Mr. Cassidy issued a warning to dampen any unrestrained optimism: “What if the virus ends up benefitting the big and powerful, accentuating inequality, and boosting populist extremism? What if it’s a force for dystopia rather than social progress?”

What if?

On one hand, we’ve seen governments rushing in to save globalized businesses from themselves – putting them on life-support, while propping up the people affected by their potential collapse. Sam Gindin writes in Portside that French President Emmanuel Macron only a short time ago declared France open for business, one that “thinks and moves like a start-up”  – rolling back worker protections and taxes for the wealthy. Today the tune is quite different as his government, confronted by the guilet-jaunes (yellow vest) movement, decided not to overhaul the retirement system, scrutinize people applying for unemployment insurance and privatize airports. Now it intones: “Free health care … and our welfare state are precious resources, indispensable advantages when destiny strikes.”

In the U.S., Mr. Gindin adds, Republicans and Democrats are jointly working to enable people to postpone mortgages, tighten rent controls and cancel interest payments on student debt. The same thing is happening here in Canada as the federal government shovels out over $100 billion to companies and individuals to shore up the economy and Ontario offers protections like the moratorium on evictions that would have been fantasy a few months ago.

We see the daily updates from government leaders at all levels eager to recover from and dispel impressions that they were caught flat-footed by this pandemic. Governments shut down quickly in March and are understandably reluctant to take their feet off the brakes.  The Ford government’s motto “open for business” changed to “closed until further notice.” They seem responsible, cautious and willing to open up their coffers – at least for now.

But let’s not forget that the same people have done their very best over the past decades to dismantle the protections they’re now so quickly trying to paste back together – if only temporarily. You can’t have a functioning economy if no one can work in it or buy goods and services – even if these are produced as cheaply as possible wherever that might be.

What about later? As John Cassidy writes, in the U.S., huge tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet and Apple are booming as people stuck at home use more and more services, dish out money and drive up profits. There may be work for more people with the technical skills companies like these need to expand into previously offline markets. But for the millions of others everywhere who have lost their jobs or small businesses that have to close, what is there?


One way to go

I think governments need to move towards democratic socialism, but in the meantime, they have shown they can do a better job of supporting people when pushed. They must continue to do so, reversing cuts to social services, health care, a basic income program, legal services and infrastructure, not just because doing this creates jobs and spending, but because it prepares us for the next pandemic, economic and environmental crises, that surely will follow. It also puts power – and responsibility-  in governments’ hands, rather than in the vested interests of global corporations, to cultivate the kinds of jobs this country needs.

To do this, governments at all levels, need money as well as a stake in the businesses they’re  refloating. As economist Alfredo Saad-Filho writes in The Bullet : “Key services should be taken over by the state to ensure that basic needs are served and, if the central authorities can give tens of billions to the airlines, the railways and supermarket chains, the public might as well own them.”  Also, governments cannot wiggle out of increasing progressive taxes that demand more from wealthy and well-off citizens and companies.

Beyond that, provincial and local governments at all levels will need access to cheap credit to cover the huge deficits coming from the pandemic. Political scientist Scott Aquanno suggests that a new public bank be created, one that would be supported by but independent from the Bank of Canada and able to lend money to support public investment and government.

To avoid the abyss that John Cassidy fears, governments need to stand behind the people who elected them.


What does all this mean for public education?

It means we need to get serious about the education we’re providing young people. After two months of emergency restrictions, it’s pretty clear that no one knows what’s going to happen next, but that we need to be ready to deal with it.  COVID-19 was a glimmer at the beginning of 2020; by March, schools and most other places were closed indefinitely. Yet, out of this crisis, individuals and smaller businesses were coming up with creative ways to deal with the problems that surfaced. There were stories of people using 3-D printers to make parts for ventilators, turning bad beer and liquor into hand sanitizer and cleaning products. Teachers were figuring out how to reach their students, many of whom didn’t have access to online learning; many of them were working out how to run Google classroom or whatever platform their school board was using.

Instantly, the purpose and nature of instruction changed.  It was clearly impossible to teach the curriculum, mark the work and prepare reports on the results. It just wasn’t practicable. As one teacher told me, one of her classes revolved around helping students stay occupied in apartment buildings where some of them, unlike their middle-class friends, just weren’t able to go out for a walk or bike ride with their parents.

So, a crisis like this offers us  a chance to reconsider what we are doing – though, of course not always for the better as we learned from Mike Harris’ Education Minister John Snobelen famous for his remarks about creating a “useful crisis” to undermine education. Teachers had to change their thinking about working with kids. Those in charge of education across the province have to follow suit. This is not the world we faced in February.

Changing from what?

I think those in charge of running education in Ontario over the years have ignored a central purpose: to foster engaged citizens rather than create compliant workers and consumers.

Over the past generation or so, education leaders in Ontario have taken on the ideas and language of business like a fetish, grafting them to what has always been the messy work of teaching and learning. This neoliberal approach to education views it as an “investment” with expected returns, not a public good.  Educators “build capacity” rather than improve their skills. University grants are to be linked to 10 “performance metrics”. There must be “outcomes- based” measurable results determined through large scale testing like that of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) or, equally perverse, “Measuring What Matters,”  something designed to assess important personal “competencies,”  like creativity and citizenship, as though these complex traits can be teased out, like threads from material.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and other crises to follow, put the lie to any delusion that there is a discrete set of skills or training that will prepare young people for a murky future. More STEM, (Science Technology Engineering and Math) is not the answer; testing prospective teachers on their math skills certainly isn’t either. Kids more than ever, need to learn how to solve all kinds of problems – so they must learn to draw from everything that might help: literature, music, science, economics, math, health, history, engineering, visual art, social learning, geography and so on. All of this must be tied together by skilled educators who understand that really useful learning comes from teaching children rather than  a mass of disconnected objectives. They do need “discovery math” despite what Premier Ford thinks of it, because it’s discovery that give kids practice at thinking.

It’s also been obvious for years that kids won’t be graduating to jobs waiting for them in factories and farms as they did generations ago; nor even in high tech today. Over the last 40 years governments and their business partners have ensured that these jobs and any others that can be done more cheaply by people earning less money, have been shipped away. So, more than ever, young people facing a gig economy need to be good on their feet.

For provincial governments driven by the bottom-line, it made sense to centralize curriculum and even methods of teaching – look at the most recent example of mandatory e-learning pushed hard by the Tories. For governments more interested in efficiencies than local representation, it was only natural to cut the number school boards across the province, creating unmanageable behemoths, that could be starved of funds, whose buildings could be left to fall apart because, realistically, there were few trustees or anyone else with enough influence or political will to do anything about it.

It was only logical that the newly anointed Ford government would take neoliberal education further – in quick steps, cutting funding yet again to school boards, increasing class size under the thin guise of building “resiliency” as it sought to get rid of thousands of teachers and other staff,  while showing off power to its social conservative base by forbidding and then reinstating meaningful sex education. It’s been quite a couple of years.

What remains of the generations of struggle for equality of opportunity in our schools? It’s gone missing for the kids of different races and cultures who need to be treated fairly; to see themselves reflected in the curriculum. It’s absent for young people who need more help and time to learn. For instance, streaming high school students according their marks, might be coming to a justifiable end. But without the mass of extra help needed, it will just be an exercise in warehousing poor and racialized kids as they bide their time. The same is true for kids with special needs, whom the province deemed could be taught in a classroom of 20 or 25 other students with a bit of support. As I talked with teachers on the picket lines during last winter’s strikes, overwhelmingly, they spoke of the worry they had for their classrooms shaken up by a few students too frustrated or humiliated to sit quietly in their seats for lack of a small class and adult with the time and understanding to help them.

How can we avoid the educational abyss – “accentuating inequality” while cultivating more dysfunction and ignorance? Below, are a few of the key issues, groups like School’s Education Action Toronto, Campaign for Public Education, progressive trustees and community members  having been fighting for over many years. I can’t include all concerns  in one article, but here are some that have that fared the worst under successive neoliberal governments.



An anti-Black racism strategy with teeth

“First, what we are dealing with, at root and fundamentally, is anti-Black racism. While it obviously true that every visible minority community experiences the indignities and wounds of systemic discrimination throughout Southern Ontario, it is the Black community which is the focus. It is Blacks who are being shot, it is Black youth that is unemployed in successive numbers, it is Black students who are being inappropriately streamed in schools, it is Black kids who are disproportionately dropping out…Just as the soothing balm of ‘multiculturalism’ cannot mask racism, so racism cannot mask its primary target.” – Stephen Lewis 1992 Stephen Lewis Report on Race Relations

Set the above report against one released in February about racism within the Peel District School Board (PDSB) and the parallels are heartbreaking. But they’re not surprising.

The report came a few months after a remark made by Will Davies, trustee for McCrimmon Middle School, one with a high proportion of kids from different races. He referred to them as “McCriminals,” then apologized after furious members of the local Black community demanded action. He didn’t mean anything harmful, Mr. Davies explained; he never “intended it as a racist comment.” This was the person who was supposed to be standing up for these young people. The Peel DSB’s integrity commissioner later ruled that he didn’t violate the board’s code of conduct; he was just using a “humorous slang term.

Ena Chadha, Suzanne Herbert, and Shawn Richard who wrote the Review of the Peel District School Board, probably wouldn’t agree with this assessment. They found that Black students were still being streamed into low level applied courses, placing university out of reach; students reported they were discouraged from taking higher level academic courses. They found that Black students were “grossly overrepresented” in suspensions – receiving 22.5 percent of them while making up only 10.2 percent of the student population in Peel; that kids in kindergarten had been sent home; principals called police to come in and handle minor issues with Black students who might go on to be arrested and stigmatized: “ We heard from Black students, parents and members of the PDSB that some teachers use any excuse to exclude Black students from the classroom and some principals use any excuse to suspend Black students from schools: “hoodie—suspension, hoop earrings suspension, doo rag—suspension”.

By the way, the suspension rate for Black students is worse at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) according to the latest available data. Black students make up 11 percent of the population but accounted for 34.3 percent of the suspensions and expulsions in 2017-18.

It wasn’t as though PDSB members hadn’t heard any of this before. In 2019 York University Professor, Carl James outlined the same problems: the extra reprimands, the racist stereotypes, epithets like “trash” used to describe Black students despite the fact that their non-Black peers would appropriate elements of their culture. He quoted one student’s perception: “ The main thing wrong with society [is that]… they see us as gangsters when all of us probably here [and/or] none of us want to be in a gang…. We’re living proper lives, and probably just want a regular life…”

“They will play one song from Bob Marley the whole month and call it Black History Month”

Taken together, these reports reveal that both Black and other racialized students believe that the curriculum doesn’t reflect the backgrounds of kids who attend school in Peel; that it should be more than just about slavery; that a popular course dealing with Black history didn’t get much support. For other students, Black History Month was just a shallow formality with no real commitment, just “Black performers and Black artists and people” lecturing them how they could better themselves.

Perhaps, one reason why Stephen Lewis’ 1992 report is still depressingly relevant is that large boards like the TDSB or the PDSB don’t appear to have a clue about how to deal with the day to day detail involved to create equitable and safe schools; they’re too focused on overarching policies – rather than simple practical steps teachers and administrators should take to deal with issues like discipline and curriculum.

For instance, the TDSB has a document called  Toward Excellence in the Education of Black Students: Transforming Learning, Achievement and Well-Being – Pathways & Transitions, the title of which alone, is enough to discourage further reading. It seeks to improve academic “outcomes” and well-being for Black students and then, in turgid prose, studiously avoids suggesting any actions beyond more study and planning. For example:

  • “ Create and implement a plan to provide ongoing sustained job-embedded learning for relevant staff (including principals, vice-principals, teachers, support staff, coaches, guidance, Student Success teacher, Community Support Workers) to understand anti-Black racism, anti-oppression and its implications on all aspects of teaching and learning as described in Inclusive Design and other anti-racism frameworks (2018 and ongoing)
  • Identify, learn from and share evidenced-based practices that have been successful in improving the outcomes of Black students and highlight, on an ongoing basis, excellence among Black students in TDSB. Undertake this work with other research-based educational organizations (January 2019 and ongoing) “

Meanwhile a 2017 report by Carl James found 53 percent of Black students in the TDSB  made it into academic high school courses, compared to 81 percent of White kids, while in the lower level applied courses, 39 percent of Black students occupied those desks compared to 16 percent of their White  classmates.

It’s pathetic, particularly when there are concrete steps to take, thanks to Professor James and others:

  • Give recognition and support for teachers who cultivate good relationships with Black students – and generally promote equity and involvement of these kids and their communities.
  • Create meaningful and deeply integrated school councils, whose members can oversee school discipline and curriculum, be critical and demand meaningful changes. Make sure they have real power – not just advisory status. More about that below.
  • A meaningful Black curriculum that is woven into all subjects rather than given pro-forma treatment during Black History month. Students need to see themselves reflected in what they learn.
  • Drop texts from the curriculum like “To Kill a Mockingbird” that reflect a paternalistic view of relations with Black people and replace them with some of the many books written by Black authors.
  • Push hard for clubs and other groups like “Power to Girls” and the “Olori Project” that help Black kids, as well as those from other races, deal with authority and racial put-downs.
  • Provide much more academic support and counselling for students who are falling behind their peers in school. If children aren’t grasping basic literacy and math they need, it’s the school’s problem, not the child’s. We can’t throw our hands in the air and say: “there’s nothing more we can do.”
  • Include Black students along with community members, youth workers, parents, trustees and educators in local advisory committees whose purpose it is to monitor changes in relevant activities like school discipline, academic support and so on.
  • Enforce discipline polices regarding peer to peer racist behavior.
  • Ensure that all staff members and trustees of school boards receive anti-racism training. Ensure that there is a duty to report racism on the part of staff and elected officials.
  • Make sure that principals are following progressive discipline steps and only suspend or expel students under the most serious circumstances. Kids don’t just pick up and learn from the experience of being kicked out of school; they need to learn how to stay there.
  • Monitor educators at all levels, as well as trustees – this leads back to Stephen Lewis’ comment from 1992: …the crucial thing is to monitor the performance of superintendents and principals and individual teachers. And if the performance evaluation falls short, then action will have to be taken.”



Needs-based funding

After the worst of the pandemic is over, the temptation to recover budget losses on the backs of education and other social services will be palpable for the Tories. Costing about $30 billion per year, education certainly isn’t cheap, but playing games with money and shortchanging schools doesn’t help put that huge amount to very good use. It’s like buying an expensive car and leaving it to rust out.

Hugh Mackenzie has written extensively about the fallout from funding formula devised by the Harris Tories in 1997. That was the year the Ontario government took over financing education in the province- ending 200 years of local control and accountability. It immediately reduced funding to school boards forcing them to rob from important local programs to fund staffing for others. They reduced special education services, cut art, music and library programs and deferred maintenance and restoration of their buildings.

At the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), there has, for decades, been a yawning gap between what it needs and what it gets to run reasonable programs that meet the needs of its hugely varied population. Last year the difference was $67.8 million. The cuts to programs and services, already hacked at for years, went even deeper.

The Harris funding formula was driven by student head counts with little left over for additional services like special education, the art or gym. If enrollment declined, so did funding. School operations were funded on an average per-square-foot costs found in couple of schools somewhere in rural Ontario. It didn’t account for fixed costs like maintenance and management that stay pretty much the same regardless of the number of students enrolled.

Successive Liberal governments increased funding for teachers and school renewal but often at the expense of other grants in the formula. Students at risk continued to be shortchanged, for instance. Buildings continued to go unrepaired, to the point that there is now a $16.3 billion repair backlog.  According to Hugh Mackenzie’s report for the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) “Shortchanging Ontario Students:”  the Liberals funded education based more on campaign promises rather than any clear idea of what was actually required in schools across the province: reducing primary class sizes; dropping grade 13, adding Full Day Kindergarten or “student success” teachers in high schools. It didn’t come from any broad understanding of what the school system should accomplish and it never addressed the narrow definition of education according to head count set out in the Tories’ original funding formula.

The funding formula has not been reviewed since 2002. As Mr. Mackenzie wrote in 2017:  “ Education funding in Ontario has lost its way. There are no clearly articulated goals for the system and no standards for its individual components. Consequently, there is no basis for holding the provincial government accountable for the relationship between the funding levels and for what is required to achieve the funding model’s goals or meet its standards.”

It’s long past time to do a thorough review of the funding formula for students and schools across the province:

  • This review needs to set out clear goals for education to which politicians may be held accountable.
  • The formula needs to be based on needs of students, schools and boards which differ greatly across the province – one size does not fit all. This is no small task, but the incoherence of the current politically driven model is not an option if schools are to improve.
  • It must include  wide consultation with parents, teachers and community members.


School and community power

In May 2007, Jordan Manners was killed by a bullet wound to his chest in the hallway of CW Jefferys SS, here in Toronto. He was just 15 and it was horrific. The following January “The Road To Health: A Final Report on School Safety” came out with many recommendations for improving safety in schools.

As my friend, George Martell,1 wrote at the time, the report missed the importance of school communities in developing good schools that would, in turn be safe schools. The panel lead by lawyer Julian Falconer didn’t consider the “deep integration of school and community that’s required to make schools homes away from home for all their participants and the locally controlled community organizing that is necessary to make this a reality.”

George loved the idea of organizing schools and the communities around them. He believed that parents needed to be involved on a day-to-day basis, helping out in classrooms and with administration. They needed to be visible. By just helping out in schools, adults from the community could help to bridge the gap between staff, who usually don’t live the school neighbourhood and the students, well-known by parents, aunts and others from the community.

It goes beyond that:

  • Each school should have its own community organizer- someone tuned in to the local culture who will press for more school and community integration, with the political skills to push for changes at the school board level. This person would be under the control of a School/Community Council with decision making power.
  • That School/ Community Council composed of community members, parents, local educators, school board workers and older students would have responsibility for the good order of the school – overseeing supervision plans and discipline policies.
  • Members would have the power to “implement as they see fit, the broad outlines” of the provincial curriculum and this would enable them to tune the school to its community’s needs. So, for instance, teachers on the council might suggest that more work was need on helping students understand the history and culture of Indigenous people. Rather than waiting years for the Ministry of Education to gather recommendations just to be shelved by an incoming right-wing government, something might actually be done.

That’s what adaptability is about. This approach to community schools would involve hiring staff, restoring lunch room supervisors and caretakers, secretaries and education assistants all of whom have been cut back relentlessly over the years. They all bring their experience and maturity to their interactions with kids and teach them in that informal, but important way.

These ideas can go even further. Schools could become true hubs of their communities instead of buildings to house classrooms. Rather than close them and sell the buildings to condo developers or private schools, if they’re under-enrolled,  imagine  schools that stretched beyond being a “specialized silo of (a) single service” as David Clandfield writes in “The School as Community Hub: Beyond Education’s Iron Cage”

He relates his visit to the Humberwood Centre back in 2010 containing, in one spot, a community centre, public library, a daycare as well as Catholic and public elementary schools. Schools as community hubs can offer anything from public health screening, dentistry, services for newcomers, a community garden, adult education, legal services, cultural programs, breakfast programs and so on.

Many schools take on some of these jobs now, but most important, is what Professor Clandfield describes as the “two-way hub when children’s learning activities within the school contribute to community development and when community activities contribute to enrich children’s learning within the school.” 2 It’s easy to see how good teachers could use all kinds  local people from shopkeepers and musicians to support workers, to spur students to investigate more about the arts, culture and work of their communities. The interaction between what students learn from and contribute to this community leads to them becoming engaged rather than passive learners, someday to become compliant workers and consumers.


Meaningful governance

I didn’t agree with their final decision, but certainly sympathised with TDSB trustees last June as they voted to cut $67.8 million from schools and programs across Toronto. Gone were support workers, caretakers, lunchroom supervisors for heaven’s sakes, trips to outdoor education centres – the list goes on. Trustees I spoke with, believed it would only make things worse if they voted against the budget handed to them by TDSB executives; Doug Ford would send in one of his lieutenants and put the Board under supervision, just as his predecessor Mike Harris did in 2002.

It wasn’t always this way. Up until 1997, local school boards got their money from property taxes. Smaller communities received provincial education grants but larger cities like Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa mostly used local taxes to finance and control their operations. Ontario, under Premier Mike Harris that year, removed the boards’ power to raise taxes and took over funding – actually underfunding- school boards.

Without the ability to raise taxes, school boards became shadows of their former selves,

amalgamated with others in 1998 by the Harris Tories’ Fewer School Boards Act to promote greater efficiency of operation and cause less trouble for a government keen on running education on a business model. For instance, the monster that became the TDSB grew from 6 local boards, each with their own particular approach to their communities. Politics was never far from discussions, but people knew their trustees and could find their way to their offices. The TDSB was suddenly the largest school board in Canada, growing overnight to 300 000 students with 21 000 employees, 600 schools and 22 trustees with little idea of what they were supposed to do under these radically different circumstances. It was a mess from the beginning.

Naturally, conflict ensued. Two reports, one from Barbara Hall in 2015 and another, the same year written by Margaret Wilson to look into problems at the TDSB noted a “culture of fear” and mistrust alleged to have been fostered by some trustees. They said trustees overstepped their roles, becoming too closely involved in day-to-day operations of school and often weren’t clear about their responsibilities.

Significantly, Barbara Hall noted the obvious problem that the Board like others in Mike Harris’ amalgamation experiment was just too big to work properly – like trying to turn a cruise ship on a pond: “The panel was told that there are too many layers of staff and decision makers to address student issues effectively in a reasonable amount of time, fostering the impression that no one is truly accountable to the students or the public. We were told that “Decision making takes a very long time, with layers of committees to get through before actions are undertaken and the sheer size of the board severely limits its nimbleness.” We were told that “Not much works well, you never know who to call and people centrally are constantly moved around; the TDSB has lost the sense of family being the largest board in Canada, and it shows.”

Large boards are not nimble. The TDSB has an imposing command structure: 1 director, 4 associate directors, 12 central executive officers and superintendents and 25 local superintendents along with their executive superintendents. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The problem is not just trustees who, like any politicians, vary in their commitment, grasp of the communities and personalities, but with a system that denies them the opportunity to do a decent job of representing their constituents. They are stuck between a rock and quick sand.

Even with a board as large as the TDSB, trustees aren’t paid enough to make their jobs full-time. If they were, they could be out in the communities connecting with those more powerful School/Community Councils described above. They could be learning about their communities from the community organizers, those councils hired. They could, like any other politician be following up on local concerns like why their schools maintain long lists of unrepaired facilities or progress they’re making on addressing local issues of racism. They could be raising policy issues at their local School/Community councils like the relevance of provincial testing, budget policy and equity.

Instead, trustees get to hire the Director of Education and vote on a budget they have neither the time nor assistance to scrutinize – and yes, bring local concerns to the attention of the board. This is not accountability – it can’t be with such large school boards.

  • In a province that might one day take local democracy as well as education seriously, it’s time to break up huge school boards into entities that are more manageable and approachable.
  • Parents, students and community members must be  able to have meaningful contact through a School/Community Council and trustee, with administrators at all levels.
  • Trustees must be able to truly oversee the activities of the boards to which they have been elected.  They need to have the paid time, staff and training this requires.
  • Trustees must to be able to advocate for their communities, but their roles need to be clear; there must be a division between school and board staff and trustees.
  • The existence of all executive positions from superintendent up to director needs to be justified by what they do to maintain and improve local schools and what goes on inside them – from improving special education programs to dealing with the fallout from months away from school because of COVID-19. This doesn’t mean supervising abstract school improvement plans based on system or ministry requirements, but responding to real issues raised by school communities, staff and students.



This is a start. There are many more and fundamental questions to answer if we really want to take public education seriously as a public good. After generations of struggle, it’s down to this: do we learn from the current pandemic and make reasonable changes to areas of our society that have been pleading for attention for decades? Do we finally accept that we’re all a lot safer and better off if we spend more on critical services and infrastructure? A “yes” to those questions  just has to be better than blindly backstopping a system that ensures inequity and a far wider gap than “social distancing.”







  1. This is from an article by George Martell for Education Action Toronto in 2008, published originally online.
  2. “The School as Community Hub: Beyond Education’s Iron Cage” – p.20