June 9, 2015

"Ministry Wheel of Fortune spells out financial stability for Peel board, but still room for improvement," says Peel board chair

Trustees approve budget that brings enhancements to Peel students

Trustees of the Peel District School Board approved a balanced, operating budget of $1.77 billion and a capital budget of $138.7 million for the 2015-16 school year.

During her remarks at​​ the Regular Meeting of the Board on June 9, 2015, Chair of the Board Janet McDougald spoke to the current status of public education in Ontario, "Over the past few weeks, I've experienced excited uncertainty, and liken the feeling to being on a game show. Not The Bachelorette or Survivor, more like Deal or No Deal—without Howie Mandel and the suitcases of money. Despite the turbulence we've experienced over the past few weeks and the uncertainty that ongoing provincial negotiations may bring, it's important that we remain optimistic. Though, some days, it'd be easier to use the Phone-A-Friend lifeline."

During her budget remarks, McDougald noted the following key highlights of the 2015-16 budget:

  • Although secondary enrolment will be down in 2015-16, elementary will be up with a net enrolment increase of 259 students. As most of the funding is linked to enrolment, this will have a net positive effect for the Peel board.
  • The board will receive $17 million more funding for Grants for Student Needs. About $11 million will be used to fund salary increases for teachers moving up the grid based on qualifications and experience.

  • The board has been allocated $50 million in facilities improvements as part of the 2015-16 School Renewal grant allocation. Approximately $32 million is composed of the School Condition Improvement grant—a $20 million increase from last year. This $32 million will be used to improve key building components and systems, such as roofs, windows and electrical work. The remaining $18 million is the board's regular renewal allocation, and will be used for a number of renewal projects, including facility improvements to instructional space, accessibility, outdoor playing fields, gym flooring, curb appeal, etc.
     
  • Special Education funding will increase as a direct result of the Peel board's Fix the Formula campaign, which took place during the 2013-14 school year. The board will receive close to an additional $5.6 million in 2015-16. Although, this funding brings us closer to actual spending, the Peel board will continue to spend more than its allocated funding to support students because there are clear and defined special education needs.
     
  • For the second consecutive year, the board will increase the number of teaching assistants in schools, adding 70 teaching assistants in 2015-16 to support students' complex physical, development, emotional and behavioural needs.

    McDou
    gald noted that, although the board's Fix the Formula campaign was successful with respect to special education funding, the board's work isn't done when it comes to fairness and funding. She said, "We must begin to talk publicly and openly about the need for English as a Second Language funding for students who are born in Canada. These students have the same language learning needs as those who arrive from outside of Canada and must be offered the same access to service and the same level of funding. Yet, we receive far less for ESL funding for these students and that's not fair."
  • Transportation remains a key ask of Peel families. Explained McDougald, "Last year, we voted to lower grade 1 and secondary busing distances. Next year, subject to budget, we will look to approve a reduction in transportation eligibility distances for grade 7 and 8 students that would take effect September 2016. Enhancements in the provision of transportation continue to be a goal of this board."

In preparing the budget, staff focused on supporting student success and well-being, and worked for months gathering input from the system to ensure funding priorities align with system goals. Noted McDougald, "This work is especially challenging when there are financial implications you have no control over—it's like being a contestant on Press Your Luck, but there's no button to press…only whammies." She went on to mention two specific funding challenges for the Peel board:

  • The Ministry of Education has removed the top-up allocation, which was used for expenditures on schools that are not at full capacity. They are, however, allowing for a two per cent increase on non-staff school operating costs and a seven per cent increase for electricity rates.
     
  • Funding for administration and governance was changed in 2014-15. The change is being phased in over four years, and has resulted in a $750,000 decrease for Peel for the 2015-16 school year. This phasing in will continue for another two years, with a total loss of $3 million over the four-year phase-in period ending 2017-18.

Concluded McDougald, "The ministry Wheel of Fortune spells out financial stability for the Peel board. Although there's still room for improvement in their funding model, we continue to be committed to working within the grants we're provided to meet the learning needs of all Peel students.

"But, what the future will bring remains to be seen…we look tonight at a budget that has significant enhancements for our schools and students. That is positive and inspires hope. Yet, we don't know what lies ahead, financially or politically, for public education, and education in Peel. And that's anxiety-inducing, for us, our staff, our students and their families.

But given all of this, we remain focused on the projects in our Report Card for Student Success, and guided by our mission statement—to inspire success, confidence and hope in each student. Every decision this board makes, each item we add to the budget and each that is taken away, all reflect that mission and what is in the best interests of students. This is a responsibility we take very seriously, and I'm very proud of our steadfast commitment in this regard."

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Media contact:  Janet McDougald, Chair, Peel District School Board, [email protected], 905-278-1402

Reference:  Carla Pereira, Manager of Communications (acting), Peel District School Board, [email protected], 905-890-1010 ext. 2814​

Note to media: Download the full text of Chair Janet McDougald's budget remarks

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