TDSB wants all Ontario parties to agree to fund deficit

In the lead-up to the provincial election Toronto’s public school board, which is projecting a deficit of $52.2 million for the 2022-23 year, is asking all parties to commit to providing funding that covers pandemic-related costs and its pandemic recovery plan.

The Toronto District School Board said Wednesday the projected deficit is primarily due to pandemic costs and declining enrolment. The board anticipates 4,200 fewer students next year, which means millions less in funding.

TDSB chair Alexander Brown told reporters that if additional funding isn’t provided to help address the impacts of the pandemic, “savings will need to be found and cuts will need to be made.”

He said there could be job cuts, staffing reduction and impacts on programs next year. The TDSB will vote on its budget in late June.

“Trustees and staff do not want to make these reductions especially now, when the students of Toronto need stability and support after more than two years of disruption … Stability is urgently needed in our schools, now more than ever to support student learning, mental health and well-being.”

The board is seeking reimbursement of all pandemic-related expenses; full funding of the TDSB’s pandemic recovery plan; the reinstatement of enrolment stabilization funding; and help with covering cost increases related to employee benefits, utilities and other inflationary increases.

The operating budget at the TDSB, the country’s largest school board, is about $3.5 billion.

Cathy Abraham, president of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, believes all boards in the province will face “difficult financial decisions over the next budget period.”

“There has to be serious consideration for funding to cover all pandemic and post-pandemic costs,” she said, noting boards will have to find solutions to address learning gaps and mental health challenges.

“This is publicly funded education and this is a challenge to the public schools right now, and we look to the political parties to recognize that and support us in this.”

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