To make schools safe for students and workers in September, Ontario school boards need more funding from the province.* So far, the Ford government has committed just $60 million for the staffing and supplies needed for the safe reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even the government’s recent decision to allow school boards to “unlock” their reserves fails to address crucial gaps in standards and funding.

With the right amount provincial funding, parents can be confident about sending their children back to school, and workers can be confident that they will be safe on the job. In the midst of a pandemic, the Ford government can’t be allowed to shirk responsibility for students’ and workers’ health, safety and well being.

Please help us deliver this message to Premier Ford and your MPP.

 

* The Canadian Union of Public Employees originally estimated a minimum of $590 million was needed to buy, install and keep filled hand-sanitizer dispensers in 4800 Ontario schools ($70 million); plexiglass for school office and libraries ($2 million); one additional custodian per school ($272 million); more education assistants to support students ($136 million); and opening currently closed school spaces ($110 million). In the meantime, the government has given school secretaries and clerical staff responsibility for screening and online learning, which CUPE calculates willl add $135 million to the original amount.

Dear Premier:

One of the biggest lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic has been around the collective benefit that comes from dependable and well funded public services, and the grim consequences of underfunding them.

I’m worried that your government has ignored this lesson in its reopening plans for Ontario’s schools. The province hasn’t provided nearly enough funding to pay for all the measures we need to keep students and staff safe in schools.

Your recent decision to allow school boards to unlock their reserve funds merely downloads responsibility for schools’ safety to individual boards. The government should provide funding that will set provincial standards for reopening schools. Instead, you have given us a patchwork system of “have” and “have-not” school boards. This move won’t deliver uniform protections or consistent levels of assurance to students, families and workers.

I am calling on your government to provide a minimum $665 million in provincial funding to invest in staffing and supplies. This funding would be available to all schools in the province and would not depend on the size of school boards’ reserves.

Introducing new procedures and protocols isn’t good enough; neither are one-time, one-off funding measures. We need equitable and reliable funding from the province to ensure the health and safety of students, families and workers in Ontario’s schools, for September and beyond.

Sincerely,

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