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  #1  
Old Posted Jan 9, 2017, 1:09 AM
toaster toaster is offline
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Ontario School Boards - Time to Merge

This issue comes up every couple of years. Let's hope this issue is brought up during the 2018 campaign, given the current fiscal realities of Ontario. The Hydro prices issue will surely get the different parties talking about ways to save money in other areas. This seems to be the easiest place to save some money. Again, my opinion is that even if nothing was saved, this should be done just in terms of equity.

And in Toronto, it may mean not much savings, but the savings would be realized in the rest of the province, where we have sometimes 4 half or quarter-empty schools with split cases of up to 3 or 4 grades in one classroom, all because of the we require and allow 4 school boards to exist.

In my mind, French and English boards would continue to exist separate from each other, and their boundaries would not be the same boundaries the English boards have ( just as they aren't now).

This thread is to discuss how the Ontario Government could re-draw the school board boundaries.


Toronto
Current:
TDSB - English Public / City of Toronto Limits
TCDSB - English Catholic / City of Toronto Limits
CSV - French Public / Most of Southern Ontario as its boundary (including the City of Toronto - Students don't necessarily go to a school in their City / e.g., some students form Mississauga attend a school in Etobicoke, etc.)
CSDCCS - French Catholic / Much of Southern/South-western Ontario (including City of Toronto)

Toronto
Current:
TDSB - 275 000 students roughly
TCDSB - 85 000 roughly

This is the one area where they couldn't simply be merged, but would have to be split into different boards by region. The TDSB is currently too big, IMO, to serve adequately.

Peel
Current
PDSB - Has about 150 000 students.
Catholic DPDSB - Has about 88 000 but serves a little larger area (Dufferin)
Can be merged. If Mississauga is successful in leaving Peel Region, I could see them having their own board, but Brampton and Caledon would have to be consolidated with another region (e.g., Dufferin, as the Catholic board current is) to have an adequately population.

French/Southern Ontario
Viamonde - 11 300
CSDCCS - 13 000
These two boards can be merged and maintain their current region (with some tweaks, they aren't exactly the same currently)

York
YRDSB - 122 000
YRCDSB - 53 000
Can simple be merged.

I don't have the time to go through all regions, but this is essentially what I think should be done.

I really hope this issue is brought forward and finally resolved, as it has been in most other provinces. Nobody wants to continue paying 300 hydro bills just so Catholics can have their own schools (and Directors of Education, and School board offices, and, and and..).
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  #2  
Old Posted Jan 9, 2017, 1:36 AM
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I agree with school board consolidation, and most estimates are that it would save Ontario a little over a billion dollars a year.

It would require a constitutional amendment to do so, but given that it's a special amendment that only affects one province, the only approvals necessary would be from Ontario and the federal government. So the whole "Catholic schools are a constitutional right" thing (the standard line the government uses to shut down debate on the topic) doesn't really mean anything other than federal approval is needed. And the federal government would almost certainly rubber stamp it if Ontario asked for it.
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  #3  
Old Posted Jan 9, 2017, 1:54 AM
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It's really time to do away with the separate school system.
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Old Posted Jan 9, 2017, 3:02 AM
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In Thunder Bay, both the Public and Catholic boards are about tied for student population, but combined they have as many as just the Public board did about two decades ago. They're both hovering around 8,000 students right now.

I think what we should do is separate the curriculum from the building management part. Have a single entity manage the buildings, and allow the school boards to simply use those buildings as much as they need them. Let multiple boards share schools, for example an English public board could operate a larger wing of a school, while the French public board could occupy a smaller one, and they could share facilities like gymnasiums, libraries, and supply/janitorial staff, while each teaches their own curriculum.

We could probably cut the number of schools in my city by a third with this. There are quite a few cases where we have a nearly empty public school a block away from an overcapacity Catholic school. The other option for them, I suppose, could be to just switch buildings. Move the Catholics into the larger school and the public students into the smaller one.

I don't really see a valid reason that we should continue having a separate board for Catholics, and if the argument to keep it is that they do a better job teaching, then fine: merge the public board into that board and then drop the religious instruction.
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  #5  
Old Posted Jan 9, 2017, 3:07 AM
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There were MANY mergers done around 1996-97 under the Harris PCs. How much money was actually saved and would doing more mergers really make much of a difference? Was there ever a study done?
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  #6  
Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 1:39 AM
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Originally Posted by vid View Post
In Thunder Bay, both the Public and Catholic boards are about tied for student population, but combined they have as many as just the Public board did about two decades ago. They're both hovering around 8,000 students right now.
Interesting.

The relative share of the two systems is wildly different in different regions of the province. In the 401 corridor between GTA and Ottawa (Brockville, Kingston, Belleville, Cobourg, etc.), there are very few Catholic schools. The entire stretch from Brockville all the way to Bowmanville only has 7 Catholic high schools total.

But in Ottawa, there almost as many Catholic high schools as there are public ones.
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Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 2:47 AM
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Thunder Bay has 4 public high schools and 2 Catholic high schools, but the Catholic board has more high school students. Their schools both have over 1,100 students each and are beyond capacity, while the public board is looking at closing both of theirs and still, long term projections are bleak. In the North End they proposed merging two schools (one with 700 and one with 500) into the building occupied by the school with 700 students (it has a capacity for 1,600), but the projection out to 2025 showed that the combined school would have about 1,000 students by then, a 20% decrease. In the south end, where they will be closing one of the schools (it has foundation issues and needs to be demolished) the population decreases only 14% over the same time period. The Catholic board predicts slight growth.

The smaller public high school in the north end was built based on data from the 2006 census, which showed slight population increase, and a small economic upturn in the years preceding the 2008 recession, so they built it under the assumption that student populations would go up. It was supposed to have nearly 1,200 students by now and was engineered so that a third floor could be added to increase its capacity to over 1,400. That school replaced two other high schools (mine, which had a capacity for over 1,200 but only held 500 when it closed, and an old school downtown with a capacity for about 700 and a student body of barely 400). It gave them about 900 students on opening day and they've dropped a good 30 to 40 students every year consecutively since 2009, and that trend continues. The school serves an aging part of the city.

Thunder Bay is almost 40% Catholic and almost 40% protestant (as of 2001, so it's a bit out of date), so that's probably a big part of the reason for the similarity in size, though the Catholic board used to be much smaller. I think the shift to that board is a combination of school location and a perception that they offer a better education. Very few people go to church, but Catholics tend to identify as Catholic even if they've never gone to church or aren't religious, similar to how Jewish people identify as Jewish even if they're atheist or non-practising. You don't run into many non-practising members of the United Church.

I'd be willing to bet at that this point the Catholic board actually has more indigenous students than the public board. The Catholic school in my neighbourhood (just two blocks from the public school) offers instruction in Oji-Cree to the early grades. Both schools, like the neighbourhood, are about 50% indigenous.

The public board recommended consolidating schools last year that would have left the Catholic board with more schools than them in the city itself. The Catholic board has no presence outside the city (it's almost entirely Northern Europeans in the bush here so there is no demand) so the public board has more schools simply because they the only reasonable option out there, but many students from rural public schools choose Catholic high school for some reason.

Also, we don't have French language public schools here, only French immersion schools in the public systems (these schools are seeing population growth as FI is very popular here), but we have a French Catholic elementary and high school here in the north end, which is where the Francophone population is mainly based. We do probably have enough students in French Immersion that a completely Francophone school could open in either end of the city and be filled to capacity.
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Last edited by vid; Jan 10, 2017 at 2:59 AM.
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Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 4:22 AM
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Except where population supports such (i.e. Ottawa), I'd get rid of the French boards as well and let the English boards run those schools. Otherwise they cover too large an area and appear maintained for political correctness more than anything.
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Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 6:08 AM
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Except where population supports such (i.e. Ottawa), I'd get rid of the French boards as well and let the English boards run those schools. Otherwise they cover too large an area and appear maintained for political correctness more than anything.
I think that too runs afoul of the constitution, and it would be harder to amend. Whereas the Catholic school requirement is a clause that was written for Ontario specifically (and thus requires the consent of no province other than Ontario to repeal), I think (not 100% sure though) that the French schools are a different story. "Official language minorities" (aka Anglophones in Quebec, Francophones everywhere else) have special rights to education that are hardcoded into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and I'm pretty sure the courts have ruled that separately governed school boards are part of that right. I'm pretty sure we'd need a full blown constitutional amendment, with the standard support of at least two-thirds of the provinces, to get rid of the French boards.
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  #10  
Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 4:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vid View Post
I think what we should do is separate the curriculum from the building management part. Have a single entity manage the buildings, and allow the school boards to simply use those buildings as much as they need them. Let multiple boards share schools, for example an English public board could operate a larger wing of a school, while the French public board could occupy a smaller one, and they could share facilities like gymnasiums, libraries, and supply/janitorial staff, while each teaches their own curriculum.

We could probably cut the number of schools in my city by a third with this. There are quite a few cases where we have a nearly empty public school a block away from an overcapacity Catholic school. The other option for them, I suppose, could be to just switch buildings. Move the Catholics into the larger school and the public students into the smaller one.
This is so logical and reasonable that it will never happen in the world of government.
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Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 5:31 PM
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I think that too runs afoul of the constitution, and it would be harder to amend. Whereas the Catholic school requirement is a clause that was written for Ontario specifically (and thus requires the consent of no province other than Ontario to repeal), I think (not 100% sure though) that the French schools are a different story. "Official language minorities" (aka Anglophones in Quebec, Francophones everywhere else) have special rights to education that are hardcoded into the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and I'm pretty sure the courts have ruled that separately governed school boards are part of that right. I'm pretty sure we'd need a full blown constitutional amendment, with the standard support of at least two-thirds of the provinces, to get rid of the French boards.
All correct. The Mahé case in 1990 involving Alberta basically gave the right to francophones across the country to manage their own schools in their own boards.

Prior to that, all of the provinces became obligated to offer "French first" schools to francophones under the new 1982 Constitution, but in many cases they were administered by bilingual school boards (in places like Ottawa or in Sudbury), or in some cases totally anglophone school boards (other than their single French school).
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Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 5:38 PM
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Seriously though, is it politically viable to put the elimination of Catholic schools forward in a meaningful and successful way in Ontario?

About 35-40% of the population is Catholic to some degree. Tons of people either have kids in these schools or work in them.

Many people who are "neither" of these two are nonetheless "sympathetic" to Catholic schools, like my parents and in-laws.

When they made the change in Quebec there was a pretty good consensus on the need for a change, although the circumstances here were quite different from those in present-day Ontario.
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Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 6:15 PM
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Seriously though, is it politically viable to put the elimination of Catholic schools forward in a meaningful and successful way in Ontario?

About 35-40% of the population is Catholic to some degree. Tons of people either have kids in these schools or work in them.

Many people who are "neither" of these two are nonetheless "sympathetic" to Catholic schools, like my parents and in-laws.

When they made the change in Quebec there was a pretty good consensus on the need for a change, although the circumstances here were quite different from those in present-day Ontario.
No, it's not a politically viable idea - it would go over about as well as the merger of municipalities did in Ontario in 2001, which is to say that it would go over like a lead balloon.

There is an advantage to having two different systems: there's no one all powerful teacher's union for the province to deal with. Public school teachers on strike? Send your kid to Catholic school and vice-versa.

I like the idea of a provincial body owning schools and "encouraging" (read: boot-to-arse) school boards to pool resources to increase efficiency. This is especially prevalent given declining enrollment. I'm sure that both boards will try and fight this tooth and nail ("We can't possibly have good Catholic students use the same desks as the public school heathens!") but there's only so many schools you can run at half-capacity before something has to give.

In a sense, it would be similar to Public Works and Government Services Canada owning and operating federal buildings, but each individual government division customizing it to their needs.

Last edited by wave46; Jan 10, 2017 at 7:18 PM.
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Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 8:34 PM
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There is an advantage to having two different systems: there's no one all powerful teacher's union for the province to deal with. Public school teachers on strike? Send your kid to Catholic school and vice-versa.
.
I can appreciate that but it's a highly theoretical plus. Most people aren't going to change school systems for their kids in mid-year just because of a strike that might hypothetically end at any time.

And of course there is the philosophical issue for many about sending your kids where you might not agree with all of the teachings.
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Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 8:55 PM
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I can appreciate that but it's a highly theoretical plus. Most people aren't going to change school systems for their kids in mid-year just because of a strike that might hypothetically end at any time.

And of course there is the philosophical issue for many about sending your kids where you might not agree with all of the teachings.
Philosophy aside, if it is summer and you're coming up on the next school year and trouble is brewing, it offers an opportunity to dodge it. It is a tenuous line of thinking but I can see the advantage.

I'd say that it is in the province's best interest to fight with two marginally less powerful unions as opposed to one united union that can bring an entire education system to a halt. Beware the political pressure of pissed off parents who have to scramble to find childcare for kids out of school. In that sense, it could be cheaper to have two school boards
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Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 9:30 PM
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Philosophy aside, if it is summer and you're coming up on the next school year and trouble is brewing, it offers an opportunity to dodge it. It is a tenuous line of thinking but I can see the advantage.
It wouldn't really matter to me if I had the choice (we only have public boards where I live and I went to Catholic school myself and would send my kids there without concern) but to some people it's a big consideration, and not as simple as wearing a beige shirt as opposesd to a white one.
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Old Posted Jan 10, 2017, 11:38 PM
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Even if the same number of boards were maintained in Southern Ontario, there would be large savings in Northern and Rural Ontario where you have literally 4 quarter empty schools (see places like Iroquois Falls), which are French enough to have both French boards (in addition to both English boards). And again, it's not just about saving money. It's about being progressive, and equitable. Try to find anyone under 30 who thinks it's fair to allow one religion to have publicly funded schools, but not others. Same goes for a workplace, working only with other Catholics, in a system where gays and lesbians have to stay closeted.

Also, in terms of Ottawa, the OCDSB is much larger than the Catholic OCSB. The French catholic school board is larger than the public board though, that may be why you think there are more catholic high schools.


Also, it is quite a different story in cities like Timmins and Sudbury, where there are 4 school boards, and parents often choose to send their kids to the newest school, not really caring if it's Catholic of Public (See the recent closing of the French Immersion Catholic school since the English Public school built their brand new mega-French immersion school, or the numbers of the French catholic board go down as the French public opened brand new shiny schools in the city). These boards are all fighting with each other to get students enrolled in their board, whereas in Toronto, you basically will go to the TDSB as a non-catholic. In Timmins, you basically have 4 boards fighting for you to go with them.

It's going to happen eventually, as younger people get older, and won't accept the systemic inequality. It's a matter of when.

In terms of the Union issue, ETFO, the largest union, has argued basically education has become a two tiered system. It disproportionally has a negative impact on recent immigrants, minorities, and LGBTQ families.

It also breaks up the Francophone community, particularly in Southern Ontario. There aren't many French schools in the GTA, and a non-catholic may live right beside a French school, but have to send their kid on a bus for 45 minutes to get to a Viamonde (French Public Board) school. It just isn't right.
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Old Posted Jan 11, 2017, 1:31 AM
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Seriously though, is it politically viable to put the elimination of Catholic schools forward in a meaningful and successful way in Ontario?

About 35-40% of the population is Catholic to some degree. Tons of people either have kids in these schools or work in them.

Many people who are "neither" of these two are nonetheless "sympathetic" to Catholic schools, like my parents and in-laws.

When they made the change in Quebec there was a pretty good consensus on the need for a change, although the circumstances here were quite different from those in present-day Ontario.
Catholic schools have a relative share of about 30% of the students in Ontario and that share is declining over time. A growing proportion of Catholic school students are just there because it happens to be closer to their house or some other reason, rather than any real attachment to Catholic education. Which is why parent councils at Catholic schools pushed so hard to be allowed to exempt their kids from religion classes, which the government allowed. Which goes into another point.. the government is not afraid of offending Catholic school boards like they used to be. The government is doing things like forcing them to adopt modern sex-ed curricula, and forcing them to allow students to form gay pride clubs.. all without any hesitation. When Catholic school trustees starting making noise about being exempt from the updated sex ed cirriculum, Kathleen Wynne basically told them the politics-speak equivalent of "fuck off".

As time goes on, and all of these factors continue to deepen as our society continues to become more secular and multicultural, the separate school boards will look more and more out of place. And with the rising cost of health care for an aging population almost certain to put a massive burden on the public purse in the next two decades, the $1B+ annual savings are going to look more and more attractive.

I don't think it will happen next year or even in the next five years, but at some point in my lifetime I expect Catholic schools will be eliminated.
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Old Posted Jan 11, 2017, 1:34 AM
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In terms of the Union issue, ETFO, the largest union, has argued basically education has become a two tiered system. It disproportionally has a negative impact on recent immigrants, minorities, and LGBTQ families.
It also has a big inequality on teachers. Because of how scarce teaching jobs are these days, the traditional requirement that Catholic school teachers be Catholics themselves is increasingly seen as massive job discrimination in that Catholics who have teaching degrees basically get two bites of the apple whereas others only get one. As a result of this pressure the Ministry of Education is increasingly coercing Catholic boards to start hiring non-Catholic teachers with varying degrees of success.
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Old Posted Jan 11, 2017, 1:58 AM
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It also has a big inequality on teachers. Because of how scarce teaching jobs are these days, the traditional requirement that Catholic school teachers be Catholics themselves is increasingly seen as massive job discrimination in that Catholics who have teaching degrees basically get two bites of the apple whereas others only get one. As a result of this pressure the Ministry of Education is increasingly coercing Catholic boards to start hiring non-Catholic teachers with varying degrees of success.
I think you're probably right, though it will take some time.

My sense is that the party that will do it won't campaign on the issue at all, or even talk about it. They'll just do it once they get elected.

IIRC, neither the Ontario nor the Quebec governments of the day had municipal mergers in their election platforms. The issue came up and the changes were implemented after they took power.
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