Ontario schools will feel recession's pinch

By 
  • January 23, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - With the economic downturn and declining student enrolment, Ontario school boards could be facing delays in some of their program funding, says Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne.

Provincial funding for new programs could also be on hold.

“We may have to delay some funding, some spending. But we also are very aware that we have to measure the cost of stopping certain things,” Wynne said Jan. 16 at a conference of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association.

But Ontario’s education minister said the McGuinty government is committed to supporting publicly funded education.

“Investment in our schools is investing in our economy,” said Wynne.

Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association president Paula Peroni said Catholic school boards welcomed the education minister’s support of public education. She said the association recognizes the pressures being placed upon all sectors, including education, in this current economic climate.

“If the government means to put in place a kind of moratorium on all but essential new programs, then they have our support,” she said.

In an interview with The Catholic Register, Wynne said she was unable to specify how much of the public school funding will be affected. But she said this will likely mean that smaller building repairs won’t be completed this year.

The pressures of declining enrolment and the recession will also mean more collaboration among school boards and within communities, and a sharing of services, Wynne said. The education ministry will be encouraging a move towards more shared public school space between Catholic and public school students and fashioning more schools as “community hubs” which could host after-school services and community programs, she added.

Brian Evoy, president of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education, said he recognizes that “this is a new era and we have to look at how to best utilize the buildings that we have.” But he added that school boards need to consider the shared space option between public and Catholic school boards.

“We have to be careful that we’re not eroding our Catholic system by any means,” Evoy said.

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