Province to spend $784M on new school construction and repairs

Ontario will spend $784 million in 2018 to build or renovate 79 schools across the province but opposition critics say it’s not enough to address a growing multibillion-dollar repair backlog.Ontario has an approximate $15 billion repair backlog at its 4,900 publicly funded schools.

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said the funding announced today will support construction of 39 new schools, and additions and renovations to 40 additional facilities. The work will include development of child care centres in the schools, with plans to create 2,700 new child care spaces.

Hunter said in a statement,”Ontario is committed to building learning environments that support student achievement and well-being.That’s why we continue to invest in new, renovated, and expanded schools so that every student can learn and grow in a space that enables them to reach their full potential.”

The government said the announcement comes in addition to a funding commitment made by the province last year to spend $1.4 billion on school repairs.

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said the funding announced Monday doesn’t go far enough to address the accumulated repair backlog and that students are learning in sub-standard conditions in some instances.

Brown said, “I’ve toured schools where there is asbestos in the walls, doors and windows that won’t close, and boilers that break down.It’s a bit late now, before an election, for the Liberals to make a promise that should have been made years ago. Students deserve better.”

New Democrat education critic Peggy Sattler also said the funding wasn’t adequate.

In November, the Toronto District School Board estimated that its repair backlog — which sat at $3.7 billion in 2017, up $200,000 from 2016 — represents nearly a quarter of the entire backlog for the province.

Sattler was also critical of the child care component of Monday’s announcement, saying that the government needs to do more to address affordability for parents.