Budget puts students first despite "exciting and perilous" future, says Peel board chair

Budget honours Fix the Formula promises, brings significant enhancements to Peel students and schools

TORONTO, June 10, 2014 /CNW/ - Trustees of the Peel District School Board approved an operating budget of $1.7 billion and a capital budget of $114 million for the 2014-15 school year. The board will continue its support for key initiatives, including the board's Vision for 21st Century Teaching and Learning, The Journey Ahead: Our Action Plan for Equitable Hiring and Promotion and activities related to increasing student retention and attraction.

Reflecting on the upcoming election, Janet McDougald, chair of the board, notes, "We are at a time in Ontario education that is both exciting and perilous. Exciting because the key financial issue we identified one year ago, fixing the formula for high needs special education funding, has been resolved—favourably—and so we can do more for students. And perilous because we face an incredibly uncertain financial future no matter what the outcome of the election this week."

Adds McDougald, "We look tonight at a budget that has significant enhancements for our schools and students.  That is positive and creates hope. We again came to the table, 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. And make no mistake—each decision we make, each item added to the budget, each taken away, all reflect that mission and what is best for students. These are not just words—they are how we do our work together."

Despite the uncertainty, the board will add significant enhancements for students and schools. Notes McDougald, "Through our Fix the Formula campaign, we worked tirelessly to deliver the message about fair funding to our community. And the province listened, and they acted. We now expect, as we asked, a phased-in implementation of a new formula for the High Needs amount that means millions in new funds for our students. Through that process we, as a board, also made commitments. We talked about how we had to take the $14 million in underfunding for special education from other areas of the budget, and so each and every student was affected. We said if we had enough money to solve our special education funding issue—not spending issue—we could reallocate our money to things parents have asked for.

We have already voted to lower elementary and secondary busing distances—a long-time goal of this board and a long-time ask of our families. With our StAR (Student Attract and Retain) initiative we see $850,000 in the budget sent directly to schools to support school and extracurricular activities. And, yes, we have also significantly increased the number of teaching assistants in our schools, based on the clear and identified need.

And we have gone beyond that. We are allocating $1.3 million to improve school curb-appeal and adding a central role to boost high school sports. We are adding and supporting more regional programs and at the same time re-focusing on the strength and benefits of choosing the excellent local school though the Peel Board Advantage fairs."

McDougald addresses the upcoming election, "Tonight we have a "good news" budget—a rarity. Yet we are not able to fully enjoy it because we just don't know what comes next. Whoever is elected faces a deficit, and that means a rocky road ahead. There already appears to be some rumoured clouds on the labour horizon—and that is not good. So, where does that leave us—and our students? I think it leaves us with a critical decision to make—and it starts with voting. And voting with OUR values—the values of public education in mind.

We all have a stake in a well-funded, quality public education system. It is the economic engine of this country. I ask you to become informed about what each party is proposing, think about the future of our children and their need to compete locally and globally.

And, just as we fashioned our budget based on our mission—thinking first of students—I ask you to do the same in your voting. As for us, for our board, I can make a commitment to you—no matter who is elected—no matter which party or parties govern this province, as a board we will always see our role as first and foremost the defenders of public education in Peel. We will make the tough decisions, embark on the necessary battles, and be guided by our values and beliefs in the power of public education to inspire success, confidence and hope."


SOURCE Peel District School Board

For further information:

Media contact:  Janet McDougald, Chair, Peel District School Board, janet.mcdougald@peelsb.com, 905-278-1402

Reference:  Brian Woodland, Director of Communications and Community Relations Support Services, Peel District School Board, brian.woodland@peelsb.com, 905-890-1010 ext. 2812

Note to media: Download the full text of Janet McDougald's budget remarks on the Peel board website at www.peelschools.org. Click on the news release in the "What's New" section of our homepage.