Advocates say changes to funding formula could keep TDSB schools open

WATCH ABOVE: TDSB Trustees and councillors stand united against push to close schools. Mark Carcasole reports. 

TORONTO – City councillors are asking the province to consider the broader uses of Toronto schools – as community hubs, daycares, and adult learning centres – before closing any of them.

The Toronto District School Board has until Friday to give the province a plan to review whether 60 schools, considered under-utilized, should be closed.  Schools are considered under-utilized when using 65 per cent of their capacity.

Councillor Mike Layton put forward the motion and said he worries about whether it would be possible to build more space for schools or childcare centres downtown.

“We know in downtown Toronto we’re running out of sites where it’s affordable and even possible to build a school that has the necessary facilities,” Councillor Mike Layton said.

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The schools are being sold-off, in part, to pay for the TDSB’s nearly $3.5 billion repair backlog.

Ken Lister, the TDSB trustee for Don Valley East, says he wants the province to make changes to the funding formula to get more money for the board to tackle the backlog.

“Adjust the funding formula for the education development charge so that the TDSB receives some funds from it. We receive zero,” he said.

The TDSB currently receives no money from development charges – the Toronto Catholic District School Board receives $841 for every condo unit in the city sold.

Lister says giving some of that money to the TDSB could keep schools open.

A new Mainstreet Technologies poll released Tuesday suggested 61 per cent of the 2,388 people surveyed support converting schools to community centres and 53 per cent support an increase tax to acquire them.

NDP Education Critic Peter Tabuns suggested the pressure to sell-off schools is “short-sighted, bottom-line oriented thinking.”

“They’re trying to force the TDSB to stampede and sell-off school properties that are critical to providing childcare, critical to providing green space and frankly that we’re going to need over the next decade and a half to house our students.”

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Education Minister Liz Sandals was unavailable for comment Tuesday.