Education Financial Chaos in Ontario and a solution

Recent chaos across Ontario’s education system, caused by the increasingly incompetent Liberal government has one root cause. There simply is not enough money in the school system because the Liberals made an idiotic promise to balance the budget compounded by the fact that advocates for healthcare, hydro rates, and transportation have made a much stronger case and have more highly placed, powerful cabinet supporters. It pains me to say this about a black female cabinet minister like Mitzi Hunter but she is not a fighter for education finance. She simply does not have the gravitas to go to the cabinet table and say “we need another $2 Billion for education”. She is far too busy with photo ops reading to small children or nibbling around the edges of issues and putting out very small fires. Nice woman – no power.

Schools are closing across the province under provincially inflicted financial pressure, devastating communities and boards are putting more and more kids on busses for two or more hours a day. This is pathetic.

A recent spat at the Toronto Board TDSB was instigated when the Social Planning Council noticed that Local Opportunities money designated for compensatory education for poorer students, was being misused in other areas of the TDSB budget. .

The TDSB management responded with a weak argument that poorer students use such facilities as outdoor education centers so they need to cough up their designated funds. This is wrong, but the fact is the TDSB is seriously underfunded, as are ALL Ontario boards, so they are gnawing at their own entrails

What then is the solution?

As always, the solution is political. The Liberal government needs to be convinced that its last chance to be re-elected in June 2018 is hanging in the balance based on education funding. I’m afraid to put it to some of the snowflakes in education but having a nice talk with Minister Hunter or Premier Wynne and just explaining the need for more money simply does not work. Even pounding your fist – bad cop style with the minister or Premier is a similar colossal waste of time. Going a step further with a ‘lobby day’ also has very limited value. Pro forma presentations to budget committees or Ed finance committees? If it actually worked we would not have kids on insane bus rides, communities destroyed by school closings, or poor kids cheated out of their funding. Twitter and Facebook and other social media are also of very limited use.

The actual solution is fairly cheap, devastatingly effective and easy to implement.

Those with long memories have seen this movie before deployed against the Harris-Eves Tory government before 2003. You must go directly after the seats of vulnerable Liberal MPPs. Ohhh my some pearl clutchers will opine, this could lead to the election of a Tory government that might be even worse. Wrong, because the Liberals you go after are Liberals in vulnerable swing seats where the NDP is in second place.

Case in point: Results of the riding of Beaches-East York June 2014.

This long held NDP seat was barely lost in 2014. Arthur Potts knows it. The NDP knows it. Everybody knows it. It will be a ding dong battle in 2018. Potts won by 481 votes meaning only 241 people can tip the seat to the NDP. Prue was an excellent candidate but any solid replacement would be in position to take Potts out. When you win by 1% and your party is running 15% behind their 2014 showing, you hear footsteps for sure. The fact that Potts “advised management on Industrial Relations” – in other words he counseled bosses on how to screw workers, only adds a little…um….motivation.

There are a number of other seats around Ontario with very similar Characteristics – Cristina Martins in Davenport, Han Dong in Trinity Spadina, Deb Matthews in London North Center, Glenn Thibeault in Sudbury the former NDP Quisling who now has a jobs as Minister of Energy turning poor people’s power off. Nice.

 

So what do you do?

Well in Toronto there is an existing parent-teacher-education worker coalition – the Campaign for Public Education, which can easily handle this issue. You take a simple 8 ½ X 11 single fold leaflet. The front cover has a picture of Arthur Potts off the web with the caption “This is Arthur Potts our MPP in Beaches-East York but he is destroying our children’s schools”. The two inside panels can be a generic explanation of the serious underfunding of schools. Potts even has school pools threatened in Beaches. The back of the leaflet has all the contact information for Potts and the Campaign.  The Chinese call this strategy “kill a chicken to scare the monkeys”.

You can see what happens next after a postal walk delivers this leaflet to every house in Beaches-East York. Potts will run, not walk to the next Liberal caucus meeting with copies of the leaflet. He will take this very article and the leaflet to the meeting and say “I cannot win unless we do something about this. It was me this time but it will be you, to other Liberal MPPs, next time”.

One MPP may not do the trick so next time those listed above get the Arthur Potts treatment until the government kicks in the kind of money that stops school closings, allocates more money to boards, creates better conditions for teachers and Ed workers, and so on.

The brochures and the postal walk are very cheap investments compared to the return on investment. The whole thing can be handled by 4-5 people and $5 000 per riding.

This triage strategy would also work very well in BC with an election looming, or Nova Scotia with education wars breaking out.

There is no better way, in fact there is no other way to actually win. Believe me I have been around long enough to know. I have the scars. Only hardball works. The other ‘solutions’ are an exercise in going through the motions. “I really gave the Minister of Education a piece of my mind today – Oh ya!” Well, did she go to the cabinet and get another $2B for education? No-then sit down and be quiet. You are not helping.