Better Schools Plus Fewer Closures Equals Student Success
Premier McGuinty Announces $280-Million Annual Fund To Fix Schools, New Policy To Slow Down School Closures
QUEEN'S PARK -- Ontario's schools are about to get the facelift our students need to succeed.
Over 1.5 million students will soon have better places to learn because of a $280-million government initiative to repair, expand or replace schools, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced today.
"This is an important part of our plan to strengthen our province by strengthening the education and skills of our people," Premier McGuinty said.
"Students have a much better chance at success when they learn in schools that are clean, safe and in good repair. That's what our Good Places to Learn initiative is all about: higher student achievement."
This $280-million in annual funding is available to school boards across the province. It will be used to secure financing for $4 billion worth of repairs, additions and new schools.
Boards are being notified of their allocations today, so construction can begin as early as this summer.
For students, it means $556 million for roofs that don't leak, $291 million for windows that open and close properly, $211 million for heating and cooling that works and $209 million for sinks and toilets that don't back up, as well as additional money for septic systems, boilers, fire alarms and extinguishers, and other urgently needed items.
That will help save hundreds of schools from closure. So will a new policy on school closures, also announced today by Premier McGuinty and Education Minister Gerard Kennedy.
About half of the $4 billion will be spent building new schools or expanding existing ones.
"Under the previous government, boards were told they could only get money for a new school in one end of town if they shut down an existing school, even if it was in the other end of town," Kennedy said.
"Instead of telling boards they can only serve one community if they completely disrupt another, we have a different approach, one that's based on the educational needs of students and the needs of the community as a whole."
The government first announced last spring its plan to introduce the fund, with the money to flow in the 2005-2006 school year.
At the time, the fund was projected to be $200 million annually. That has now been enhanced to $280 million.
"We have been able to find additional money by looking for better and smarter ways of working with boards," Kennedy said.
Here are some examples:
- The previous government assumed an interest rate of eight per cent, long after interest rates had come down. That has been adjusted to an assumed rate of five per cent -- something that will save at least $26 million per year.
- The previous government paid school boards $1 billion for new school spaces that were never built, with the money placed in reserves instead. From now on, funding arrangements will be changed so payments are provided only after shovels have actually been put in the ground.
- The previous government did not explore shared purchasing initiatives, nor did it adequately account for regional differences in the cost of construction. A new task force, formed from government and boards, will explore the best financing and pricing arrangements.
Repairs and improvements that have been identified as urgent needs will begin within 18 months, Kennedy said.
"Better schools and fewer school closures will mean less disruption and a more positive learning environment," Premier McGuinty said.
"And higher student achievement will help us build a stronger workforce, a better society and a more prosperous economy. What we're announcing today will help ensure Ontario is the place to be, for years to come."