Open letter from Ontario NDP Education critic Lisa Gretzky to the Minister of Education on the schools repair backlog.
This month, the Auditor General uncovered that years of neglect have left our community schools in dire need of repair. Notably, the Auditor General reported that the Ministry of Education requires a minimum of $14 billion invested towards infrastructure; $1.7 billion of which is critically necessary and urgent.
Organizations like Fix Our Schools have brought these issues to your attention time and time again. They estimate that the capital repair backlog at the Toronto District School Board alone totals $3.3 billion. Rather than addressing these issues immediately, your department has allowed the capital repair backlog to balloon out of control. While the Auditor General recommends an investment of $1.4 billion per year to maintain schools in a state of good repair, actual annual funding for the last five years amounts to approximately $150 million—approximately ten per cent of the required investment.
Minister, school boards do their part by proposing viable solutions to address these issues but your lack of commitment continuously stifles their efforts. While $2.6 billion worth of projects are submitted to your department annually, you only approve about one third of these projects each year. This means schools like Catholic Central in my riding of Windsor West continue to accept students while the building is falling apart. The school is plagued with a backlog of needed upgrades and repairs to the plumbing, elevator, and electrical infrastructure. Rather than taking these issues seriously, you denied the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board’s capital priorities request, asking instead that the board look into an alternative to the project, which you did not define and have yet to clarify.
The Auditor General’s report makes it clear that years of neglect by your government have left schools across the province in a state of disrepair. Student and families should have access to quality community schools but your government continues to fail to deliver on even the fundamentals. Minister, it’s time to start listening to the Auditor General and fix our schools.
Lisa Gretzky, MPP