June 19, 2017

Board approves budget focused on delivering, “what our system deserves, what our students deserve,” says Peel board chair

​Trustees of the Peel District School Board approved a balanced, operating budget of $1.86 billion for the 2017-18 school year, subject to Ministry of Education approval. Within this amount, local priorities funding of $15.3 million has been allocated to the board to provide additional staffing, in consultation with employee groups. Although most of the $1.86 billion is allocated to fixed costs—salaries and benefits, busing, classroom resources and technology, maintenance, utilities and other operational costs—$7.5 million was available to support new, ongoing initiatives.

"We are guided first and foremost by our commitment to want what is best for students. That guides every decision we make as a board," noted Chair of the Board Janet McDougald during her remarks at the Regular Meeting of the Board on June 19, 2017. "To help with that work, we have our own Plan for Student Success. Approved by this board last year, the plan defines our four priority areas and our key projects. It tells us where to spend our time and resources—and equally important—where NOT to invest. These goals have truly guided our work, and our budget reflects these priority areas."

The board's Plan for Student Success goals include:
  • high expectations for achievement
  • parent, community and staff engagement
  • equity and inclusion
  • safe, positive, healthy climate/well-being
In addition to working with Peel staff to develop the budget, the board sought input from the board's leadership team, principals and vice-principals, all of our unions and federations, and, through an online survey, nearly 400 staff, parents and community members.

Explained McDougald, "This year, we had $7.5 million to invest in new initiatives—a rare opportunity for any Ontario school board." Guided by the Plan for Student Success and the board's budget consultation process, the $7.5 million and $3.7 million from board reserves will be used to support the following ongoing and one-time enhancements:
  • 70 additional teaching assistant (TA) positions; conversion of 72 long-term occasional (LTO) positions to permanent and 31 new LTO TA roles to support fall transitions
  • new Professional Student Services Personnel positions—including a social worker to support our students from Syria and beyond
  • an additional climate and well-being resource teacher
  • new equity and inclusion roles to support current initiatives, including the development of a student census
  • 13 new assistive technology resource teachers to support students with special needs to use assistive devices
  • additional secretarial/clerical floater positions
  • an additional secondary PC/LAN specialist
  • facilities staff retention despite top-up funding elimination (see below)
  • additional secondary and elementary teachers to support special education and other emerging needs
  • $750,000 to enhance extracurricular activities
  • school supports related to instructional resources, arts and athletic equipment, instructional furniture, vocational program equipment, outdoor play equipment, instructional technology, water bottle stations for elementary schools, and repairs to fields and tracks
  • $5 million on capital improvements
In response to community input, the board also approved the absorption of millions of dollars lost in top-up funding in facilities.  As well, the board is spending $1 million to keep elementary French and Music classrooms open.

As outlined above, the board has $7.5 million in funding to support the key priorities in its Plan for Student Success. New spending on TAs in this budget totals $9.36 million. Our total TA spending last year was $96.5 million.

Explained McDougald, "While it is laudable to increase the number of TA roles, there is a need to look at our use of TAs as we move forward. We know the need. We see the need. We understand the incredible job our staff do each day with some of our most vulnerable students. There is no question. But, our expenditure on TA allocation is growing faster than we can afford. That is not a criticism—it is a reality. Our work together on Fix the Formula has helped—but we continue to outspend our special education allocation. There is a special education review in the Plan for Student Success. We need to make it our focus in the year to come. We need to work harder to help the province understand it is not just about the number of students—not a volume issue—but the complexity of needs."

Speaking further on student needs, McDougald noted, "We have students with extraordinarily high needs. We have students with severe behavioral issues they often cannot control. Students who need an intense level of support. And, to be clear, we are glad to have those students in our public schools. They are welcome and included here. The province needs to fund these students—to help them reach success. And fund the students in a way that truly acknowledges their complexity of needs. I will ask our friends on the board's Special Education Advisory Committee, on school councils, our unions and federations, and the Ontario Public School Boards' Association to join us in building that understanding.

Continued McDougald, "As a board, we look forward to this conversation. To working with stakeholders. To do what we do best—find solutions that best meet the needs of our students. To have courage to look in new ways…I want us, as trustees, as a system, to be as brave, and creative, in solving our financial challenges as our staff are each day in the classroom as they support students. That is what our system deserves. What our students deserve."

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

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

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

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