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Once upon a time Toronto public schools built swimming pools are part of their “facilities”. They were able to do this as the funding for schools was raised locally. Skip forward many years and with the Great Educational Liberator – Mike Harris (aka, failed teacher who couldn’t pass his evaluation period) – local municipal taxes were no longer to support school boards – the money would be provided provincially. This was so that, in essence, schools all over the province would have an equal distribution of funds so that each student had a fair experience in elementary & secondary school.

Toronto’s schools have suffered in this shift of educational funding as the city itself was a huge cash-cow for Toronto schools. Now those local tax dollars are going towards other schools, in the name of educational equality. What does this mean? Facilities such as swimming pools are not part of the educational funding formula, so the schools need to find creative ways to pay for the upkeep & maintenance of the pools.

The Toronto District School Board has been weeping for years to “please don’t close our pools”. And in my personal belief, rightfully, the City of Toronto has not wanted to fund the pools. The Provincial Government has stepped in and said that they will provide capital funding for the pools and that it is up to the City & the school board to find a way to fund the operating costs.

The swimming pools are not an educational need. Not all schools throughout the province have them, so in essence I’m against the idea of preferential treatment for a “luxury” that no other school board in the province has. The student enrollment at the TDSB has been shrinking for years – due to families moving out to the suburbs and inner city mostly full of either the destitute or singles living in their high priced condo apartments. If the TDSB had better managed its capital portfolio it may have not need to go to different levels of government begging for funds, trying to pull on the heartstrings of the public.

The TDSB should sell off it’s excess capacity (yes, I mean shutting down schools which are way under populated), and look at creative ways of trying to pay for its frills – like charging fees to the public to use the facilities. Those schools are closed during the summer months – charge for using the pools during the summer, charge community groups for using the school auditoriums for amateur dramatics/meetings etc. The argument that many pool-supporters use is that the pools are integral to their communities…great, let the communities/neighbourhoods chip in with the upkeep of these “frills”.