From Your Catholic School Trustee Esther O’Toole Funding Cuts and Budget Most of the time when I write to you I do so to tell you about all the wonderful things that are happening in our Dufferin-­‐Peel schools. And of course that is still the case. I see great accomplishments in academics, sports, the arts and social justice. Students are given vast opportunities to learn and to explore and to give back to their community. As your trustee, it is very rewarding to attend a school play, or a basketball game or a speaking contest or an art show. This is the most rewarding part of my job. And again this winter, despite the cold, wonderful activities continue to take place and championships celebrated or losses measured against great effort. The times that are tough for trustees are when we face funding cuts for our programs that have a direct hit on the classroom and our students. Trustees have been expecting cuts to our Grants for Student Needs because the province is facing such a huge deficit. We have been successful in the past to make the dollars work to protect programs and jobs. We are very worried about what is going to happen with this round of Grants. We cannot face any more cuts and we believe that that is exactly what will happen. We understand fiduciary responsibility but we expect fairness and do not expect provincial deficits to be dealt with in such a manner to make those cuts even deeper. School Boards across the province are faced with many funding challenges as this Government operates under austerity measures to balance the provincial budget by 2017/18. Dufferin-­‐Peel CDSB has made difficult decisions over the past several years in an effort to absorb funding reductions from the Ministry without significantly affecting student achievement and well-­‐being. Funding reductions from the Government have been in the areas of classroom computers, other technology, professional development, textbooks, program enhancement, Board administration, maintenance, transportation and school operations. In addition to funding reductions, the Board has also realized the impact of enrolment changes across our system, which affects funding as well. School Boards are not yet aware of what the 2014/15 funding from the Government will look like, however, it is anticipated that there will be further reductions in the Province’s attempt to balance the budget. Funding challenges for the Board will continue in 2014/15. Budget discussions over the next few months will address contract negotiations, special education needs, 21st Century technology, infrastructure needs, Full Day Kindergarten, enrolment changes, maintaining momentum on student achievement and well-­‐being and other cost pressures. School Boards are required by law to have a balanced budget, meaning match revenue expenditures with no deficit. This becomes increasingly more difficult and challenging in an era of funding reductions. We are calling on all of our parents and Catholic education supporters to write or call your local MPP and to ask for their ongoing support for Catholic education, both financially and politically. We are very concerned. Contact information for Hon. Harinder Takhar (below Eglinton) [email protected]; Tel: 905-­‐828-­‐8989 or 416-­‐327-­‐2333. For Bob Delaney (above Eglinton) [email protected]; Tel: 905-­‐569-­‐1643 or 416-­‐325-­‐5724. Supporting and Advocating for Catholic Education As parents/guardians of children in our publicly funded Catholic school system, you have a powerful voice, both as a taxpayer and a constituent. Increasingly, we are seeing co-­‐ordinated attacks on Catholic education, with calls for the discontinuation of funding of the Catholic school system in Ontario, and the establishment of a single, secular school system. We see evidence of this through radio call-­‐in shows, newspaper articles and opinion pieces, letters to the editor and through various social media channels. Many times the information that is being discussed or printed is false. Your willingness to lend your voice in support or counter negative commentary or attacks on Catholic education through media, or other means, is an important part of our community’s effort to promote and maintain our strong, viable and relevant Catholic education system in Ontario. From time to time we will make you aware of opportunities to write a letter to the editor, call in to a radio talk show, or simply vote in an online survey or other action that will indicate to the public and the government that there is a strong presence of Catholic parents/guardians and supporters, who are passionate about Catholic education and who can provide a balancing point of view to those who would attack, discredit and/or seek to end publically funded Catholic education in Ontario. Mainstream political parties in Ontario have stated their support for Catholic education. But that does not mean that we shouldn’t continue to impress upon our locally elected MPPs, our desire to maintain the current system of publically funded Catholic schools. Take a few minutes to write or call your MPP and let them know that you appreciate their continued support in this regard. There are 3.9 million Catholics in Ontario; more than 600,000 students attend Ontario Catholic schools. We are strong, but we cannot be silent. Lent As we enter the most important season of the Catholic Church we pause to reflect on the tremendous sacrifice made for us by our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. Our schools will hold Lenten Masses, distribute ashes, lead Stations of the Cross and experience many other liturgical activities. As we move into our March Break, I wish safe travels to those who may be visiting relatives or camps, resting at home or visiting warm climates. And as ever, I ask the good Lord to always hold you in the palm of His hand. *I would like to thank our Director of Education, John Kostoff, and Bruce Campbell, General Manager -­‐ Communications & Community Relations, for their help with this article.