Province hands reins back to Dufferin-Peel board

  • September 10, 2007

{mosimage}MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - The funding formula war between Queen’s Park and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board ended just in time for the school year, and local trustees are claiming victory.

“We feel very vindicated for the stance we took,” Dufferin-Peel chair Bruno Ianicca told The Catholic Register as the government handed financial control of the 144 schools back to the board.

The sometimes bitter feud between the Dufferin-Peel board and three successive ministers of education over a deficit that started at $16.5 million became the focus of a province-wide debate over the education funding formula and dark warnings from school boards that fewer and fewer boards would be able to meet the Education Act’s demand for balanced books. The board sent thousands of postcards out for parent signatures urging Premier Dalton McGuinty to close what it called a “funding gap” in special education, busing and local priorities.

{sidebar id=1}When former assistant deputy minister of education Norbert Hartmann was appointed to wrestle the Dufferin-Peel deficit to the ground in October 2006, it was down to $7 million. Though the Ministry of Education called Hartmann a “co-management team chair,” the board refused to work with him. Hartmann was paid $1,500 per day, more than $160,000 over 10 months, and slashed the deficit to $1.7 million while instituting reforms to the boards financial procedures and bylaws.

In the meantime, Queen’s Park has increased Dufferin-Peel’s funding by $43.5 million for the 2007-2008 school year, including an extra $7 million for transportation and special education announced Aug. 14 as part of a $309-million two-year funding top-up provincewide. The Dufferin-Peel Catholic board is one of a handful of school boards in Ontario with a growing population of school-aged children.

“They’ve added funds to the funding formula for ’07-08, which will help us no doubt,” said Ianicca. “They did commit for ’08-09, which will again help us to close the gap that we talked about in the funding formula. Then they’re going to revisit the funding formula, re-evaluate it in 2010, which again should help us. So, do I feel good? Absolutely.”

At a meeting before handing financial power back to the board, Ianicca promised Education Minister Kathleen Wynne Dufferin-Peel would seek financial stability going into the future.

“Any decisions that we make we will make sure that we have the funds sustainable to keep those programs,” Ianicca said.

The future of Dufferin-Peel’s special education programs and the Reading Recovery program for children in Grades 1 to 3 having trouble learning to read will be discussed at the first administration and finance committee meeting of the school year, said the board chair.

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