TDSB trustees miss a chance to say “NO!”

Dudley Paul  – 2019-06-26

It was a depressing sight – watching TDSB trustees explain a budget cut of $67.8 million some said they hated, that was imposed upon them by the Ford government but had no option but to support. Trustee Jennifer Story stood up to say that the Doug Ford’s cuts are “awful” but that staff and trustees delivered the “best budget they could under these horrible circumstances.” Trustee Parthi Kandeval asked how a set of principles like those underlying the budget could have produced such a document – though he found some “solace” in the fact that important programs like music were reduced rather than eliminated entirely.

Trustee Stephanie Donaldson said she would support the budget because there was not enough opposition to cuts across the province  – that Toronto couldn’t go it alone. Trustee Michelle Aarts lamented gutting secondary programs and how that will affect graduation rates. Trustee Shelley Laskin said that she had never taken part in a TDSB budget discussion that hadn’t called for reduction; the Board hasn’t been properly funded since amalgamation of the old school boards over 20 years ago. Trustee Rachel Chernos Lin simply accepted that the budget would go through and decided to move on asking: how best do we implement it?

The result was in no doubt about this budget that runs through to 2021 unless the Tories decide to make some changes. It passed 18:4. Aside from those 6 supporters, the other 12 trustees voting for it had nothing to say.

 

High points of the 2019-21 budget

It’s not exactly the same budget that School Magazine described a few weeks ago. Here are some of the high points:

  • Learning Centres will still lose 52 teacher advisors and 3 office staff. It will lose another 12 teacher advisors for a year, while the Board makes the required cut for 2019-20 and then get them back the following year.

 

  • The Senior Team of superintendents and assistant directors – 47 high-level and highly paid staff was cut by 7 for 2019-20 – not 5 over 2 years as originally proposed

 

  • International Languages will lose its day program for 3 338 students at 10 sites but won’t lose the weekend program too.

 

  • The hit to the International Baccalaureate Program has been spread over 2 years, but secondary students will still have to come up with the money to cover the fees the international program charges.

 

  • School budgets, the money used to pay for supplies, field trips, arts, even some maintenance takes a further cut. Originally the budgets were cut by $1.37 million – now it’s $2.37 million.

 

  • Student Support Services loses 10 psychologists and 4 administration staff along with the incredible loss of 3 speech and language pathologists and 4.5 social workers for one year only – more about that later.

 

  • The TDSB is hoping to make some more money from International Visa students who will pay $16 000 per year to attend both elementary and secondary schools. The Board will expand the program to allow 200 more kids to attend and increase the number of secondary school courses available to them to entice them to stay. How it will do this while cutting secondary staff is a good question.

 

  • The budget for Itinerant Music Instructors has been cut by 24%. Originally, 23 instructors were slated to lose their positions; now the Board will only say that the cut will come by reducing hours, travel time, professional development, reallocating hours based on neediness of schools; the plan is still pretty vague – itinerant music instructors should be considering other work.

 

  • Facilities will still lose 60 maintenance and trade staff, 10 summer students and 3 management staff.

 

  • Instead of closing 4 Outdoor Education Centres, the TDSB will close 2 by 2021 and cut the staff at all remaining centres. What’s changed significantly is that schools will be charged $300 per class per day to attend Outdoor Education day programs, regardless of their position on the Learning Opportunities Index, the guide the Board uses to decide upon lack of privilege for schools. But overnight programs will still cost the same; students from the neediest schools will pay $25 to $50 per night; those from the wealthiest will pay $75 to $150 per night.

 

  • The TDSB believes that cutting Secondary teachers through the Ford-mandated increase in class sizes will mean that it can save $1.5 million on supply teachers. It won’t have to hire them because there will be fewer teachers to cover if they’re off sick, have a family emergency and so on. But, what about those fewer teachers left in their place? Board staff must have moved to the state of denial to think that these teachers won’t get sick or take more stress leaves.

 

  • Lunchroom Supervisors have suddenly become expendable with the Board deciding to cut 296 of them in 2020-21 for a savings of $2 million. This just has to be a major concern for anyone worried about liability issues. It could be that the staff members who came up with this proposal have not spent a lot of time in lunchrooms – but fewer lunchroom supervisors!? Do they expect principals and vice-principals, worried about their kids’ safety to take on this new role?

 

“Budget drivers”

It was embarrassing to see what the TDSB calls its  “budget drivers” stacked up against the money it was taking from them. These “drivers” are the principles of good education it says underlie the decisions it makes about what money to spend and where to spend it. Each line of the budget has a budget driver right beside it so the public knows what principle is being applied.

For example, the decision to close two Outdoor Education centres, cut staff and charge $300 per day per class sits beside the budget drivers: “Student Success” and “Differentiated Approaches to Serve Our Students.” This would be a comedy, if it wasn’t that well-educated and well-paid adults had senselessly used them to describe a major cut to an important program for kids who live in a city that is rapidly becoming less friendly to them.

Or what about the budget drivers that accompanied cuts to teacher coaches and guidance counsellors? These were listed in the next column as “Differentiated Approaches to Serving Our Students,” “Professional Development,” “Early Years” and “Parent Engagement and Student Voice.” An English teacher would call this satire; the Board has created a parody if itself and its fleeting connection with reality.

Meeting the Ford government budget timetable

Then there are the twists and turns made in the budget to meet the Ford government’s timetable – something that might have been offered by Ministry of Silly Walks rather than thoughtful educators. For example, it’s pretty much a given that students can’t afford to lose 3 Speech and Language Pathologists and 4 ½  Social Workers – especially at a time when the Tories are doing their best to cut social services and public health.

But the TDSB must cut a certain amount from the 2019 – 20 budget, so that’s what it’s doing – cutting those folks for a year and then putting them back for 2020-21, when the coast is clear to do so. The same is true for teacher professional development which the board is going to cut back for a year then replace the following year. That budget driver for that,  by the way is “Allocate Human and Financial Resources Strategically to Support Student Needs.” It’s the same one used to explain that 296 lunchroom supervisors will lose their jobs.

The people who developed this budget and the principles that drive it, have lost their way. I’m sure they mean well and are only trying to make the best of a terrible situation. But the result is a sham dressed up in corporate newspeak. It’s hollow nonsense. The reality is that it only serves a government seeking to gut education.

Four trustees voted against this budget. Trustee Trixie Doyle stated the obvious: the cuts do the opposite of addressing the carefully crafted budget drivers and strategic plans. They are so broad and deep that they will hurt the students in Toronto schools; they will hurt “the youngest and most needy students” more. Trustee

David Smith reminded colleagues afraid the province would do a worse job hacking away at education, that the last time trustees voted down a budget, the Harris government sent in former Toronto alderman Paul Christie to do the job; but he couldn’t balance the budget.

Trustee Manna Wong argued that trustees have been pitted against each other by the Ford government to decide whether to cut off “our left arm or our right arm.” She said she could not support the budget “without being ashamed of being a vehicle delivering this harm to our kids.” Trustee Alex Brown pointed out the meaninglessness of budget drivers, when he said that the TDSB hasn’t started with educational goals but rather cuts, adding he cannot support going against “my own mandate as a trustee which is to provide the highest quality of education for our kids.”

The trustees supporting the 2019- 21 budget have made a serious mistake. They had the opportunity, when Doug Ford is so low in popularity that down is starting to look like up – to add pressure by saying “NO” to him.  They may not have known that he was about to shuffle his cabinet like a bad hand of cards, that his education minister was out the door, that his chief advisor, Dean French, a man feared and detested in Tory inner circles would be gone, but they knew Doug Ford’s government was in chaos.

Still, they chose to sit on their hands. They have publicly acknowledged that their first priority cannot be the children and families who attend their schools; they work for the Ministry of Education which demands that they produce a balanced budget based on what it wants to give them. They do not look like people who can hold the public trust in schools. They do not look like people who can credibly advocate for boys and girls who face an increasingly inequitable school system. They’ve given in.

Had they, like their colleagues Alex Brown, Trixie Doyle, Manna Wong and David Smith, stood up and defeated the budget, Doug Ford may well have sent in someone to do his dirty work for him.

But it would have been his budget to wear along with the rest of the shabby stuff he uses to cover this government which will never be for the people.

 

This table can give you a more detailed look at the 2019-21 TDSB budget.

AreaProposed ChangesLoss of staff positionsEffect on
2019-20 budget
Effect on
2020-21 budget
Learning Centres
Staff from Learning Centres support schools and teachers.
They offer:
• ideas for better programs
• support for children who need more help
• professional development
• support for schools to engage with their communities.
• Kindergarten to grade 12 Coaches: Cut from 69 to 40

Now: 12 more coaches removed - to be returned in 2020-21 budget
• Early Reading Coaches: Cut from 28 to 20
• Guidance Positions: Cut from 84 to 69
• Special Education Consultants: 28
• Special Education Coordinators: 16
• Community Support Workers: 24
• Student Equity Program Advisors: 8
• Office Clerical: Cut 3
52 teachers
3 office workers

Now: 12 more teacher coaches cut for 2019-20 only
Original:$5.82 million cut

Now: $7.22 million cut
Now: $1.4 million returned to budget
Senior Team
The management group of the TDSB:
• 1 Director
• 6 Associate Directors
• 12 Executive Superintendents and Officers
• 29 Area Superintendents

Total: 47 top level staff
• Original-cut by 5 over 2 years

Now - cut by 7 for 2019-20
Original: 5 senior staff

Now - 7 senior staff
Original: $0.3 million cut

Now: $2.34 million
Original: $1.2 million cut
Centrally Assigned Principals
These people manage specific programs or areas:
• Alternative Schools
• Caring and Safe Schools
• Continuing Education
• Early Years
• Employee Services
• Equity
• Anti-Racism
• Anti-Oppression
• International Education,
• Leadership and Learning
• Learning Centres
• Outdoor Education
• Special Education
• Urban & Indigenous Education Centre
• Cut 55 principals to 4213 principals$2.13 million cut
Central Administration
These people manage services like:
• Business Services
• Caring & Safe Schools
• Communications
• Employee Services

• Reorganize these departments
• Review vendors' contracts
TDSB doesn't say$5.38 million cut
International Languages
TDSB delivers language
instruction through:
• An integrated day program at 10 sites,
6 languages for
3338 students
• Weekend programs at 29 sites, 50 languages for 7500 students
• After school programs
Original:
• Cut the Integrated Day Program
• Cut the Weekend
Program
• Increase the Day. program

Now: Just cut the Integrated Day Program
TDSB doesn't sayOriginal: $0.6 million cut

Now: $0.1million cut
International
Baccalaureate Program
:
• Mission statement: ...aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.
• Offered at 5 elementary schools
• Program continues to Secondary Schools
• Cut the Elementary School program
• Keep the Secondary
program, but don't cover fees charged to students
- set up a program to help low income families pay them
TDSB doesn't sayOriginal: $1.66 million cut

Now: $0.12million cut
Now: $1.54 million cut
School Budgets:
Used to pay for example:
• supplies
• books
• teacher development
• field trips
• extra-curricular activities
• maintenance not covered by TDSB
• school teams
• arts
Original:
• 5 % cut to school budgets
• That may be less for smaller schools, those with less access to fundraising money and schools in poor
neighbourhoods.

Now: Further cuts to school budgets
Original $1.37 million cut

Now: $2.37 million cut
Student Support Services
These people support students needing a lot of extra help in areas like:
• attendance
• education assessment
• mental health
• crisis intervention
Original:
• Cut administration from 30 to 26
• Cut psychologists from 138 to 128

Now:
Same as above plus:
• Cut 3 Speech/Language Pathologists for 2019-20 and return them in 2020-21
• Cut 4.5 Social Workers for 2019-20 and return them in 2020-21

Original:
• 4 administrators
• 10 psychologists

Now:
• 3 Speech/Language Pathologists for 2019-20 only
• 4.5 Social Workers for 2019-2020 only
Original:
$1.7 million cut

Now:
$2.6 million cut
Now:
$0.9 million put back in the budget with the return of the Speech/Language Pathologists and Social Workers
Leadership and Learning
These staff:
• help run TDSB events and programs like robotics competitions
• give advice and ideas to
teachers on issues like science safety
in schools
• provide equipment like science kits
• support school libraries
• provide media and other learning resources

Original:
• Cut Arts/Music leaders from 16.5 -9
• Cut Health and PE leaders from 12 to 7
•Cut Science leaders from 15 to 6
• Cut Math, Literacy Social Studies leaders from 6 to 3
• Cut ESL leaders from 49 to 47.5
• Cut French and classical language leaders from 4 to 3
• Cut Guidance, Student
Success and experiential
learning leaders from 39 to 30
• Cut library resource workers from 62 to 47
• Cut media design workers from 8 to 4
• Cut professional learning leads from 4 to 2
• Cut researchers from 20 to 18

Now: Same as above plus - to help balance the budget for 2019-20, these positions will be cut and then reinstated in 2020-21
• 4 researchers
• 2 Central Staff (unspecified)
• 5 Centrally Assigned teachers

• 32 teachers
• 15 library resource workers
• 8 media and research workers

Now: Same as above plus - 11 more central staff and researchers cut (to be returned in 2020-21)
Original:
$4.98 million cut

Now: $6.18 million cut
Now: $1.2 million returned to the budget
International Visa Students
These are students from other countries who actually bring money in to the TDSB:

•Current tuition fees are $12,500 (elementary) and $14,500 (secondary)
• 2 300 students in all
• The Ford government announced that the Ministry will take $1 300 from each student's tuition fee
Original:
• Increase tuition fees for the 2020-21 school year to $14,000 (elementary) and $16,000 (secondary)
• allow 200 more students into the program
• increase the number of courses available

Now:
• Increase tuition fees to $16 000 for both elementary and secondary students
• allow 200 more students into the program by 2020-21
• add more secondary schools to the list these students may attend
• increase the number of courses available to them
Original:
Gain of $2 million

NB: TDSB doesn't explain why increasing fees to elementary students by $2 000 per year doesn't reflect higher revenues
Itinerant Music Instructors
• 82 instructors give sessions to students around the TDSB for instruments like strings and steel pan
• 22 instructors offer staff development in Music
Original:
• Cut full time equivalent instructors by 24%

Now:
Cut budget 24% by reducing
- hours, travel time, travel expenses
- less professional development
- simplified but unspecified timetabling
- reallocating hours of Itinerant Music Instructors based on LOI and small schools, music staff at schools, number of grades
- allocation of Itinerant Music Teachers would be based on 2 hour units

Original:
• 23 itinerant music workers

Now:
TDSB doesn't say
$1.39 million cut
Positions based on schools before boards were amalgamated
• Some schools and departments had extra staff based on the practices of the previous boards
Original:
Elementary schools:
• Cut Music itinerant teachers from 3 to 0
• Cut IB teachers from 2.5 to 0
• Cut Elite Athletic teachers from 1 to 0
• Cut Artistic director from 1 to 0

Secondary Schools:
• IB 5 to 2.5
• Robotics 1 to 0
• Regional Athletics 2 to 0
• Elite Athletics 3 to 0

Now:
Same as above but cut Music Itinerants from 3 - 1 teacher
Original:
• 16 teachers

Now:
• 15 teachers
$2.24 million cut

Now:
Same money cut, but with 1 fewer teacher cut.
Secondary Vice PrincipalsTDSB doesn't say$.92 million cut
Supplementary French Immersion teachersTo be announcedTDSB doesn't say$12.15 million cut
Supplementary Gifted teachersTo be announced TDSB doesn't say$3.4 million cut
Facilities
• The Ministry cut back on money for school operations
• Cut Trades staff by 8
• Cut Management by 3
• Cut summer students by 10
• Cut caretaking by 52
• 60 school workers
• 10 summer students
• 3 management staff
$4.61 million cut
Outdoor Education
For Toronto kids this is a major area.
For years Outdoor Education sites have
given overnight and day-trip experiences
to many children who rarely get a chance to leave the city.
Currently there are:
• 10 centres that serve 65 000 students each year

It costs:
• $8 million to run them

Where money comes from:
• $ 2million from the Ministry of Education
• $1.2 million from fees collected from students and others
• $4.8 million from the TDSB
Original:
• Increase user fees based on a school's Learning Opportunity Index (LOI)

What's an LOI?
It's a measure of income
levels, poverty, family education and number of single parent families
in each school.
Each school gets a number on the LOI Index - the lower
the number means the school has higher needs
.

Increasing User Fees:

Students from 1-150 LOI:
• from $3.50 to $5.00
for day trips
• from $25.00 to $50.00 for
overnight trips

Students from 151 to 200 LOI
• from $7.50 to $ 10 for
day trips
- from $ 75 to $100 for
overnight trips

Students from 251 and over:
• from $7.50 to $15 for day trips
• from $75 to $150 for overnight trips

Cut the Number of Centres:
• From 10 to 6

Have Schools Pay for Transportation in 2020-21

Now:
2019-20:
• Close Etobicoke Field Centre
• Cut staff at all Outdoor Ed Centres
• Charge $300 per class regardless of LOI for day trips to centres
• Overnight trips will cost the same as above.
• Close Etobicoke Outdoor Ed Centre in 2020-21


TDSB doesn't sayOriginal:
Gain of $2.5 million by increasing user fees, but $0.7 million switched to school budgets

Now: $2.9 million added or cut
Transportation costs of $0.7 million still left with schools
Now: $1.51 million added or cut
Information Technology Services
New item
• Cut unspecified licensing programs, voice-over messages and other unspecified "upgrades to certain services:TDSB doesn't say$1.0 million cut
Transportation - French
Immersion/ Extended French and Gifted
Students

• For 20192-20 - cut $1.3 million for TTC tickets for Secondary French, French Immersion and Gifted students
• For 2020-21 cut $0.4 million for TTC tickets for elementary Gifted and French students
• Cut $1.5 million from busing for Gifted students grades 4-5 and French Immersion JK-6
• Save $2.5 million by adjusting bell times at schools to allow the most efficient use of bus routes. New pick up and drop-off times may change child care arrangements
$1.3 million cut$4.4 million cut and saved
Professional Development• Reduce central professional development for 2019-20 - then put the money back for 2020-21$2.5 million cut$2.5 million put back in budget
Supply TeachersBoard expects that as it cuts teachers from Secondary Schools, there will be less demand for supply teachersTDSB doesn't say$1.5 million savings
Lunchroom supervisors• Cut lunchroom supervisors by 11.5% in 2020-21• 296 lunchroom supervisors$2 million cut