Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pools in schools

It's a routine event-- Ontario's school board grants are announced and then shortly thereafter the annual pissing match begins between the Toronto District School Board, the City of Toronto and the Ontario government over the fate of 79 swimming pools located within TDSB schools.
First, some context:
Until 1998 when the Education Funding Formula was introduced, school boards and K-12 schools in Ontario were funded through a combination of grants that came directly from the province and a local education tax levied on property owners. Under that system, a ratepayer would declare their support (ie: public school system or Catholic school system) and the education share of their property taxes would be forwarded by the local municipality to that school board. Boards would annually approach local municipalities with their levy requests. Under that system, the education share of commercial and industrial property taxes was funnelled into the public boards. This setup resulted in a wide variance of richness-- boards in larger urban centres could lean on the plethora of commercial and industrial assessment in their district to support a far greater number of programs and facilities than Catholic boards and those in more rural, agricultural areas with poorer assessments. This is how the former boards in the Toronto area were able to afford the cost of building all these pools as part of their schools and then be able to pay for their operational costs. Also, as the cities were a big source of funding, there was more flexibility to allow for city staff to run programs in these schools, etc.
Other than an outright move to control all school funding, the funding formula was supposed to eliminate this unfairness across the province. No longer would the richness of your commercial and industrial assessment base determined the level of program and facility your board could provide.
The challenge is it forced boards like Toronto, Ottawa, London, etc. to realize how good they'd been having it all along. Going on 11 years later, it also leads to the annual pool-school issue in Toronto.


Anonymous said...

In most municipalities the funding and maintenance of swimming pools falls under the recreation department. Why not in Toronto?

Pools are not money makers....they're money suckers costing at minimum at least a million dollars a year to upkeep.

TDSB chair Campbell is hanging tough on this and Toronto Sun's Moira MacDonald also has a column on this very issue today.

If we really want to be fair. How about rural and small boards ask for an equivalent amount for their boards to spend on extra-curriculars?

educ8m said...

That's the problem in Toronto, the city can't afford to run them either and parents want swimming lessons/programs for free.

Education Reporter said...

Anon is correct-- pools are notorious money suckers (I also have an extensive background in aquatics). The issue is compounded in TO, where (at least during the summer) public swim entry to many pools is free for residents.