by Errol Young – BASICS Online February 2010
Over 100 community public schools could close in Toronto and the land sold to developers in three to five years.
This development should be of great concern to us all. First there is the economic scale of this thing. Selling 100 sites for about five millions dollars each means that over half a billion dollars will be exchanging hands. Second – and more importantly – these sales will result in a significant loss of publicly owned resources.
To sell off these assets, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is holding school-closing meetings in 10 areas of the city that they are calling Accommodation Review Committees (ARC). Any recommendations made by the public favouring keeping schools open can be and will be ignored by the TDSB, the body that has the final say.
The most organized group is in the Jane and Finch community, where the January ARC public meeting was shut down. Staff ended the meetings when community members resisted attempts to divide them into small groups to pick their ideal school model.
When the Bloor/Dufferin ARC recommended skipping the breakout groups, staff had the public meeting split up anyways and while many recommended the status quo, others considered closures.
By this spring, all of the 10 ARCs will have been completed and many schools will close.
Then, after this huge amount of real estate is offered to pubic bodies, the TDSB will pass the land over to its arms length body, the Toronto Lands Corporation (TLC), which will try to sell the land to waiting developers.
By closing schools, residents will lose access to safe, public space for recreation and will be left with no spare classrooms when the student population expands again.
The Board points to its $2 billion capital deficit when justifying the closures, but this selling frenzy will only raise one quarter of that amount. The TDSB actions can also be seen as a response to calculated government policy of the provincial government: according to Ontario’s funding formula for schools, full school buildings are rewarded and those 80% capacity are penalized.
But is this the only reason why the TDSB is going to proceed with this destructive process?
The City and the TDSB are fighting for a doctrine of the neo-liberal right that calls for the divestment of public assets to the private sector and that has impoverished nations worldwide, demanded that social programs close, forced denationalization of public assets like water and electrical systems and starved millions.
This means that when you and your community fight the closing of a local school, you are also fighting the polices of global capitalism over the last three decades. So act locally, and fight globally!
To learn how to take action or get more information, you can check my blog at saveschools.wordpress.com or see the http://campaignforpubliceducation.ca/ site or call 416-986-1CPE (1273).