As Ontarians prepare to go to the polls on June 2, the SPACE Coalition reached out to the four main provincial parties to gauge their commitment to community use of schools.
Along with our Briefing Note, we asked each party if, when, and how they would support the following recommendations:
- Restore community use of schools funding provided to local school boards to the 2018-19 budget level of $50.9 million increased by 10% for 2022-2023 to total $56 million.
- Apply an equity lens to community use of schools permits, policies and procedures.
- Confirm funding for summer permits and student employment annually, no later than February, to allow for adequate planning, advertising programs, and hiring.
- Undertake the necessary changes to legislation and regulations to:
- add Community Use of Schools (grounds and facilities), on an incremental cost-recovery basis, into the Purpose clause of the Education Act, entrenching the benefits of community use for people of all ages in Ontario.
explore methods of lowering weekend permit costs, such as a mechanism to provide weekend caretaking coverage at regular rates.
expand the authority of the Provincial Ombudsman to the oversight of the Community Use of Schools program.
mandate Community Use of Schools Advisory Committees in every school board.
As of May 5th, we received responses from three of the four parties. Their responses, along with relevant highlights from their party platforms and other documents, are summarized below, listed in the order in which we received them.
Green Party of Ontario
The Green Party of Ontario provided a positive response to our outreach and committed to “restoring community use of schools funding to a level that ensures schools can be actively promoted and used as community centres during the evenings, weekends and school holidays, particularly in high-needs neighbourhoods.” In addition, their response included support for:
- exploring methods of lowering weekend permit costs,
- expanding the authority of the Provincial Ombudsman to the oversight of the Community Use of Schools program, and
- mandating Community Use of Schools Advisory Committees in every school board.
Ontario Liberal Party
The Ontario Liberal Party provided a positive response to our outreach. In their letter, the party noted their past achievements to support CUS. They promised to “reverse the Ford government’s cuts and increase equitable support for community use of schools, which includes support for programming in high-need neighbourhoods, community outreach and coordination, community use of space advisory committees”.
As part of their election strategy, the Ontario Liberal Party prepared an Education Recovery Plan, which expresses support for upgrading, repairing, and building schools.
The Ontario NDP provided a positive response to our outreach. Their letter noted that “the Ontario NDP is in full support of enhanced community use of schools.”
Ontario NDP Platform – Chapter 5: Fixing Education and Schools – includes the following relevant commitments:
- Reverse Ford’s cuts
- Review and repair the funding formula
- Clear the school repair backlog
- Fairness in Education Development Charges
PC Party of Ontario
As of May 5th, we have not received a response from the Ontario PC Party regarding our election questions. We have followed up twice. The PC Party of Ontario has also not released a party platform.
As the governing party for Ontario, the 2022 Budget can provide a sense of the direction for the PC Party if they are re-elected. The 2022 Budget, released on April 28, includes the following information under Building Modern Schools:
- “Building, expanding and renovating schools in Ontario can help future generations learn and develop. This is why the government is investing about $14 billion in capital grants over 10 years to support school infrastructure. This includes $1.4 billion to renew and maintain schools for the 2022–23 school year. The government is also launching a pilot program to collaborate with school boards to expedite school construction using rapid, modular build methods so students can take advantage of new and updated schools sooner. These investments in schools will leave a lasting legacy and benefit families for years to come.” (Page 91)
what you can do
Make the most of the coming weeks and help prioritize community use of schools in this election: