Education Town Hall

Education Town Hall

Notes from Bhutila Karpoche's Education Town HallSeptember 19, 2018

Speakers:

  • Robin Pilkey: Robin is currently the elected trustee for the Toronto District School Board for TDSB Ward 7 - ParkdaleHigh Park. As well, for the past three and a half years, Robin has served as the Chair of the Board. She is a resident of Swansea, and has three children who have graduated from the TDSB. In addition to her trustee role, Robin is a Chartered Public Accountant with 30 years experience.
  • Barbara Poplawski: Barbara is the longest-serving trustee of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, having been first elected in 1978. She represents Ward 10 (ParkdaleHigh Park) and is also the TCDSB Chair. Barbara has been an advocate for increased music instruction in schools, and has a long history of being firmly committed to putting students
    first.
  • Colinda Clyne: Colinda Clyne is Anishinaabe kwe (Aa-nish-in-awe-bay Kway), mother, educator, and advocate. Currently she works as a curriculum lead of First Nation, Metis and Inuit Education. Her leadership, knowledge and generosity of spirit have allowed her to lead by example, through relationships and in community. She works hard to be the change every day.
  • Krista Wylie: Krista Wylie is a parent to two children who attend publicly funded schools in the west end of Toronto. In spring 2014, she co-founded Fix Our Schools, a non-partisan, parent-led, province-wide campaign working to ensure all Ontario schools are safe, healthy, well-maintained buildings. Krista holds an HBA from Ivey Business School and an MBA from Schulich. She has worked professionally in teaching, consulting, sales and marketing.
  • Lyla MacAulay: Lyla is the Chair of the ETFO (Elementary Teachers of Ontario) LGBTQ committee. She is also the budget chair of the Elementary Teachers of Toronto LGBTQ committee. Prior to being a teacher, Lyla worked for the City of Toronto’s social services. Currently, Lyla teaches Intermediate students at Queen Victoria Public School here in ParkdaleHigh Park, and has taught grades all the way from 1-10 throughout her career. She facilitates a GSAC as part of her commitment to equity and student safety.
  • Bhutila Karpoche: Bhutila is the Member of Provincial Parliament for Parkdale—High Park. In June 2018, Bhutila made history by becoming the first person of Tibetan heritage to be elected to public office in North America. Bhutila is active on issues around social justice and public health. She is a longtime advocate of affordable housing, workers’ rights, education and public healthcare. An epidemiologist by training, Bhutila is a public health researcher focusing on the social determinants of health. Most recently, she co-authored the report “A public health crisis in the making: The health impacts of precarious work on racialized refugee and immigrant women.” Bhutila holds degrees from the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto and is a PhD candidate in public health policy at Ryerson University, where she received the RBC Immigrant, Diversity, and Inclusion Project Award.

Introduction (Bhutila Karpoche):
Education is a top issue that Bhutila’s office has been hearing about from constituents, which led us to hosting this town hall. Our focus, based on the changes to our education thus far in this new government, is to ensure that we do not, as a province, slip backwards.

Speaker #1: Krista Wylie:

  • The origin of Fix Our Schools (FOS) was a group of Runnymede Public School parents who were concerned about the state of that particular school, and the TDSB in general. However, as things progressed, they quickly realized that this issue was affecting all Ontario school boards.
  • Key successes of FOS: All funding has to come from the provincial government—currently, the funding is inadequate.
  • In 2016, the Ministry offered $1.4 Billion, increased from the previous $150 Million. However, there is now a $16B backlog in needed repairs.
  • Further concern is the issue of transparency of data on repairs. Previously, this information was not public. The TDSB started making that data available, and only then did the Ministry agree to make the data available—and now you can track, to an extent, disrepair of each school. However, the data we have does not include or consider portables. Air conditioning is not considered a “needed repair”.
  • Fix Our Schools held a Pledge Campaign for all candidates in the 2018 provincial election. Many current MPPs signed this pledge—including the current Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson—and under her watch, some of the funding promised to school repairs has been slashed.
  • Fix Our Schools has been pressuring MPPs to honour the pledge they signed.

 

Speaker #2: Colinda Clyne:

  • In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was looking for action from provincesto have more Indigenous education—curriculum needed for teachers. (Grades 4-6, 7-8 and 10 were completed—still needed for grades 1-3, grade 9 geography, and senior social studies courses.)
  • The summer workshop writing session was to address the gaps in curriculum, but the government cancelled this at the last minute. Many of the people who were scheduled to be a part of the workshop had already traveled to the location. Many didn’t even see the email that was sent out by the government cancelling the Monday workshop at 4pm the Friday before. Colinda was the one who broke the news—as a whistleblower—on social media.
  • The Minister said the session was just “postponed”, but she hasn’t responded to questions about this.
  • The province of BC has a mandatory course on Indigenous affairs.
  • The current Ontario government has combined the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs into a multiple-issue Ministry with Energy and Northern Development, when it is clear this should have remained a Ministry all of its own.
  • We need to recall that many of us who are parents now did not learn about Indigenous affairs and history in school, and we are in danger of repeating that for today’s generation if this is not addressed immediately.

 

Speaker #3: Lyla MacAulay

  • Doug Ford and his government have cancelled the new Health & Physical Education Curriculum (commonly referred to as the “Sex-Ed Curriculum”).
  • Parents have taken the government to court over this, supported by Lyla’s group
  • Lyla recalls when she had to keep her family life and relationship a secret. Now, the school and school board are very much more inclusive and supportive.
  • The “snitch line” is a major issue.
  • Support from the community is paramount right now. Please check out the online survey that the government has available on this issue THE SURVEY ENDS SEPT 21
  • Despite saying they want to consult parents on the new health curriculum, no consultations have been set up yet, save the online one (linked above) which has not been widely advertised.
  • The results of the online survey will only be physically seen by the government—results are not transparent! 

Speaker #4: Robin Pilkey

  • The change of boundaries has affected trustees—there will now be 22 trustees in 25 wards! Though this hasn’t affected TDSB Ward 7, it has affected other parts of Toronto
  • Keep pressuring the Ministry to fund much-needed repairs.
  • Major issues right now: 1) renovations, new schools. The province has to look at business of proposed repairs—hasn’t done so. 2) Bussing—the province started the School Transportation Review, and the Ford government cut it. 3) Child care – Ford government has now hurt non-profit care in favour of for-profit care 4) Sex ed consultations—where are they?
  • NDP is calling for Education Development Charges – where developers have to give infrastructure funding for school boards to do repairs.

 

Speaker #5: Barbara Poplawski

  • Same issues as TDSB. School repairs, facility issues, no air conditioning in increasingly hotter temperatures.
  • Transportation is a huge issue too and a huge cost.
  • Toronto has the highest poverty rate in Canada, and there are plenty of issues that the school board deals with related to that as well, and a lack of government support to address, for example, cancelling the $15 minimum wage will only hurt students living in poverty. Funding for after school activities has been cut and hurts those students as well.
  • Current government put $25 Million into police and crime initiatives, when what’s needed is to address root causes! Invest in things like music and arts for children!
  • Another example: Sistema Toronto was promised $500K by previous government. Current government cancelled the funding. This program helps at-risk kids.
  • The one group that is being ignored in this whole thing: the students themselves.

 

Audience Questions:

  1. When are consultations? How can we participate in them?
  2. Can the NDP hold parallel consultations, that are public and transparent?
  3. Can the NDP harness the power of social media to address this and consult?
  4. How can we support teachers and curriculum writers in an organized way?
  5. How can we get air conditioners installed in our schools?
  6. How can we get activism in the news? Ex., Sept 21 student walkout?

(Thanks to Cathy Brown, who took these comprehensive notes.)