Ontario gov't could force financial help on Toronto school board

Tory MPP Peter Shurman holds a pencil sharpener - the kind the TDSB paid $143 to have installed.

Credits: Antonella Artuso/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency


TORONTO - If Toronto District School Board trustees don't accept the provincial government's offer to help get their financial house in order, that help could be forced upon them, Education Minister Laurel Broten said Friday.

In a statement to sent to QMI Agency Broten said the TDSB must accept the help of a "special assistance team" that would work with senior board officials to address financial problems exposed by a wide-ranging consultant's report made public this week. If the board fails to do so, Broten said she will appoint an investigator to look into the matter.

"If the Board does not accept the Special Assistance Team ... we will begin to take the necessary steps to appoint an investigator to assess whether the Board has the capacity to make the necessary corrective actions on its own to get its financial affairs back on track or if other measures are required," she said.

TDSB staff estimated the board's deficit to be $30 million but the report by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers pegs it at $62 million.

The report was commissioned by the board to help it save $10 million and balance its 2012-13 budget. Depending on which recommendations the board follows, it could save as much as $91 million, the report says.

It also made sweeping recommendations which include closing 10-15 schools and laying off over 700 workers.

Broten offered to appoint the team Nov. 29, and gave the board a week to reply. The board missed that deadline.

"The PwC report was also clear that the TDSB does not have the required internal capacity to undertake implementation of all the recommendations," she said.

TDSB vice-chairman Shaun Chen said board officials have been hesitant to accept the help because they feel the elected trustees should be making decisions for their constituents. If the team can work in an advisory role, he feels the offer will be accepted at the board's Dec. 12 meeting.

"Where that special team fits in is quite unclear to us based on the lack of information we've received," Chen said. "We've asked the questions back to the minister for clarification on the exact role and responsibilities of this team."

Earlier in the day, Progressive Conservative education critic MPP Lisa MacLeod said the minister shouldn't just appoint the team, she should appoint a supervisor to take over operation of the school board.

"This is more than just a failure by a top manager or a middle manager," MacLeod said. "This is a systemic failure across the board and the trustees must be held responsible for this as well."

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