I wear three(!) hats on this issue: as a resident whose children attend A.J. Baker P.S. in Kintore in the Thames Valley District School Board, as a Municipal Councillor in the Township of Zorra, and as the Vice Chair of the Community Schools Alliance.
The position of the Community Schools Alliance is “to have municipalities become partners with school boards in making decisions about where new schools are built and where schools are closed.”
To that end we have made several delegations (through member Municipalities) to the Minister of Education including a very positive delegation I presented at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario Conference in Ottawa in August (https://www.facebook.com/CommunitySchoolsAlliance/posts/1440354912712622). Specifically I asked the Minister to engage in a “wide ranging consultation process, with all stakeholders including a variety of community groups, and Municipal Governments, to fully consider the significance of schools to rural, northern, and single school communities in developing the policy changes to the Funding Formula and PARG to end the Moratorium.”
I pointed out to the Minister that while schools are not “capital A” assets of Municipalities, they are “small a” assets. Without our schools Municipalities cannot be complete communities that truly have the ability to plan and develop our future.
This delegation was very different in tone to past year’s delegations, it was open and consultative. But the proof will be in what type of policies the Minister proposes to end the current Moratorium.
I encourage you to lobby your local Municipal Governments to become members of the Community Schools Alliance and help us to continue to fund research on this topic and advocate on their behalf.
Both personally as a parent, and as a Municipal Councillor, my position is a bit more far reaching: I believe that the decisions about where schools should open and close should rest entirely with Municipalities.
Municipalities have Planning Departments that do exactly this type of work. Municipalities have Public Health Departments that have a wealth of knowledge on building vibrant, healthy communities. Municipalities already build the majority of infrastructure in Ontario. All these functions (Planning, Public Health, infrastructure, and Education in our communities) would be better achieved by having Municipalities control where such a vital piece of community building infrastructure as a school should be.
I know some people would argue that it is too big for Municipalities to take on, but I disagree. Currently all capital funding is provided to School Boards by the Ministry of Education; transfer that to Municipalities. Already almost all contracts with Education Staff are (at least initially) negotiated by the Ministry. The curriculum is almost entirely written and mandated by the Ministry and only administered locally by Boards (and in my opinion not very “locally” as most Boards are too geographically large for their to be legitimately local understanding).
So I believe that not only are Municipalities capable of adding an “Education Department” to Public Works, Public Health, Planning, etc., I think that it would in fact result in better planned communities, more integrated communities, and more local knowledge and democracy in school opening and closing decisions.
All of these topics, and more, will be discussed in an open forum at the 2017 Ontario Rural Education Symposium being hosted this year by the Township of Zorra on Saturday November, 25th in the Embro Recreation Centre.
MOE Staff have confirmed that they will be attending to hear input on the recently announced policy changes…
I hope to see you there too.
2017 Ontario Rural Education Symposium:
Councillor Ward 3