You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Education’ category.
In my previous post I described how our public library is a vital city service and I voiced my concern about the 0% budget. The library (and every other city service) is being mandated to hit a 0% 2013 budget, which will result in service cuts (as laid out in this statement on the library’s website).
Please consider this important issue. Please get involved and contact City Council to let them know how you feel about the cuts to the London Public Library (and other services vital to our city) to reach a third 0% tax freeze this year. This page has a guide to the city’s wards and how to contact City Council, and below is the letter I have submitted to council. You’re welcome to use it as a template if you’d like to!
To London City Council,
I write today to ask that as you shape our 2013 budget, you consider how much the public library means to Londoners. In 2011 (according to the library’s website), 3.2 million people visited a library location, 1.31 million people asked library staff for help finding information, 4.25 million items were borrowed, 192,000 people attended a program, 972,000 holds were placed on items, 567,000 uses of library computers were logged, and 4.5 million people visited the library website. Absolutely stunning numbers!
As well, they write that “London has the highest annual library use per capita in Ontario at 40.6 annual uses per capita (median use is 28.1), according to the most recent OMBI report. London has the lowest operating cost per use in Ontario at $1.27 per use, according to the most recent OMBI report. In a 2012 survey, overall public satisfaction with library service was at 97.9%. 96.3% of people surveyed felt that the Library gives good value for taxpayer dollar spent.”
Our public library is so much more than just the books on the shelves. Libraries are a gateway to early literacy, social programs, and continue to be one of the key community hubs for a city. Libraries are also important community centres, with classes for numerous social skills, job search portals, community lectures, research centres, and much more. In London, we’re fortunate to have a central library that includes a community lecture and performance hall, as well as easy access to city and county records and archives.
I write to you to ask that you would consider this as you examine the hard budget decisions before you. I understand that you want to ensure that tax payer dollars are spent in the most efficient and appropriate ways possible, which is absolutely commendable. However, I’m concerned that without proper funding for our library as well as our public safety, transportation and community service programs, we will pay much more in the long run by running ineffective programs stretched beyond their means, failing to serve the people that rely on these services.
As you consider the public library and how important it is to our city, please also examine the overall cost the goal of 0% tax increase will have on our city. As we get into the budget process, London Public Library, London Transit Commission, London Community Foundation, Pillar Nonprofit Network and United Way London & Middlesex have all spoken out against the path to 0% and the cuts that will be necessary to reach the target this year. More organizations will likely join them as the budget process continues, and the cost that will be born by London’s most vulnerable.
Thank you for your time and consideration. Sincerely,
Brian Gibson, Ward 2
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for considering this important issue. The budget process impacts us all, and the decisions we make now will impact our city for years to come. The great thing is that there are many ways to get involved!
There are several public participation meetings over the next two months, culminating in the final budget approval February 28th. The link has all the important dates, and all sessions will be streamed live. These are a terrific opportunity to see Council in action and to see first hand the decisions they’re making on the budget. Today the first public participation meeting starts at City Hall at 4pm, with many community groups and organizations slated to speak to the budget and the impact it will have.
You can also e-mail, Facebook, call (Financial Planning @ 519-661-4638) and Tweet (@CityofLdnOnt) to the City budget teams with your ideas. If you’re on Twitter, you can also use the hashtag #LdnBudget13 to post your thoughts.
Please get involved London, and have your say!
I’ve always loved books.
I feel like I almost grew up in the library of my home town of Wiarton. My mom was one of the librarians there, and I spent long afternoons buried behind the shelves, amazed that (as it seemed to me at the time) all of human knowledge was available to me there. My time there helped foster an enduring appreciation for books and reading, and a thirst for knowledge and further learning and discovery.
But libraries are so much more than books. Libraries are a gateway to early literacy, social programs, and continue to be one of the key community hubs for a city. Libraries are also important community centres, with classes for numerous social skills, job search portals, community lectures, research centres, and much more. In London, we’re fortunate to have a central library that includes a community lecture and performance hall, as well as easy access to city and county records and archives.
As we discuss the city budget, and where to place our resources as the city struggles with stubbornly high unemployment levels, it may seem like an old-fashioned, bricks, mortar and paper institution like the library would be an easy place to find cuts. For sure, with the advent of the internet, many organizations and businesses have struggled to keep up. Businesses including major music and video rental stores have closed, unable to compete as their services became increasingly available online.
Despite this, London’s library system is only seeing both its physical and digital attendance growing. The numbers the library lists on its website show how indispensable a service it provides to our community. The library took the bold step of actually posting a news release to their website to outline how busy they have been, and how a third straight 0% would impact them. The release states that in 2011:
- 3.2 million people visited a library location
- 1.31 million people asked our staff for help finding information, materials and other resources
- 4.25 million items were borrowed
- 192,000 people attended a program, including those for newcomers, teens, job-seekers, new parents, seniors and those looking to connect with all this city has to offer
- 972,000 holds were placed on items
- 567,000 uses of our public computers were logged, many by those without access to the Internet or a computer in their home
- 4.5 million people visited our website
As well, this opinion piece by LFP’s Ian Gillespie shares more good news:
According to a recent report from the Ontario Municipal Benchmarking Initiative (OMBI), London has the highest annual library use per capita in Ontario at 40.6 annual uses per person (the median use is 28.1).
And with an annual budget of about $19.5 million, London’s libraries boast the lowest operating cost per use in Ontario, at $1.27 per use, according to OMBI.
More than half of all Londoners possess a library card, and in 2011 they used library services nearly 15 million times.
And those users were happy, too: A 2012 survey showed overall public satisfaction with library service was at a whopping 97.9%.
It seems stunning that despite this information, council is pressing for the library to find more ways to cut funding, without somehow harming service. This year, it just isn’t possible. There are many hard decisions in the 2013 London budget on this third year of the “Path to 0%”, as each year compounds the cuts of the last. This year, to achieve 0% the library warns that it will have to reduce service by reducing service hours in most locations, removing Sunday service entirely, and offering fewer items to borrow.
As I said, our community relies on the library services far beyond borrowing books. Many Londoners rely on the library services for their internet access, for job searching, for resume and job search advice, and for life skill training. If the library is required to meet a target of 0% by council, it will be one more way that 0% will cut services to Londoners most in need.
The London Public Library is only one of many community organizations speaking out, and I imagine the din will only rise as we get closer to the budget process. The London Community Foundation posted this letter on their website, also outlining the impact a third straight budget of 0% will have. They state:
London Community Foundation has traditionally preferred to influence public policy with a light, often unseen hand. This year we have joined Pillar Nonprofit Network and United Way London & Middlesex to collectively voice our concerns on the proposed City of London budget because we strongly agree that those who are most vulnerable will be disproportionately impacted by proposed changes and cuts.
Please, speak out to support our vital library system. My next post will be a letter to council, including information on how to contact your councillor as well as the entire City Council. Please reflect on what the library means to you, and how it helps those members of our society most in need. Contact your member of Council, and participate in the budget process to make sure your voice is heard!
There are many problems plaguing Ontario’s public school system. The economy remains fairly stagnant and the provincial government is struggling to find solutions and cut costs, while battling with a minority government situation. For years the London community of Lorne Ave. Public School has been threatened with the closing of their school as resources become tighter and the school has struggled with under-population.
This spring, the provincial legislature battled through passing Bill C-13, the Accepting Schools Act, to tackle bullying, specifically the chronic problem of the bullying of LGBT students (as described here). The major obstacle for the passing of the bill was the Progressive Conservatives and the Catholic School Board opposing it, with the board saying that they would be forced to accept “behavior” that is against their religious teachings.
Things have only become more complicated since then. Over the summer the provincial government struggled to create a new contract with the different teacher unions as their previous contracts were set to expire. The McGuinty government accused the unions of dragging their heels over the summer, creating speculation about whether the school year would start on time. Eventually the government called an emergency session of the legislature, with the threat that they would legislate a new deal if the unions wouldn’t agree to the terms they were willing to offer.
The provincial government has just passed the controversial Bill C-115, The Putting Students First Act. As this article states, “It imposes a wage freeze, the end of sick-day banks and a two-year strike ban, over the objections of unions representing most of the province’s teachers and school staff.” Understandably, the unions are furious, saying that their democratic right to collective bargaining is being taken out of their hands, and are vowing to protest this action.
In retaliation, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) is urging teachers to reconsider staying after school for extra-curricular activities such as sports and clubs, drawing criticism that though their complaint is with government, they’re only punishing students with this action. As well, “ETFO also wants its members to take part in ‘McGuinty Mondays’ in which teachers and educational professionals refuse to take part in school or system-level meetings.”
All of these issues combine into a very volatile situation for the government, educators and students. The government struggles to cut the massive provincial deficit, including by cutting back teacher wages and benefits, yet they seem to be avoiding a difficult but important step to cutting the cost of our education system as well as ensuring it becomes fair for all Ontarians.
To me, there is a very real solution to these issues available: amalgamate the Catholic and public school boards into a single, united secular school board. It would combine all of the schools already owned by the province, make much more efficient use of all of the school resources including buildings, staff and teachers, and produce a truly fair public system.
So far, the Green Party of Ontario (GPO) is the only political party willing to amalgamate the Catholic and public school boards. Though I am traditionally a Liberal supporter I am completely ready to say this, and to say I wish other parties would take the GPO’s lead. GPO leader Mike Schreiner’s views seem very similar to my own; he sees it as an issue of fairness and fiscal responsibility. In his words:
It’s an issue of fairness. In today’s world, it’s unfair to fund one religion school system at the exclusion of all others. The second is fiscal responsibility. When we have a record provincial deficit and we’re talking about cuts to education and attacking teachers, to not look at ending wasteful duplication – I think it’s irresponsible to not look at those savings.
Right now, we have a public school system that contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, both by discriminating student entry and staff hiring by religion, and discriminating by sexuality. As well, in 1999 the United Nations Human Rights Committee condemned Canada and the province of Ontario for violating equality provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In this 2005 report, the Committee restated its concerns and observed that Canada continued to fail to “adopt steps in order to eliminate discrimination on the basis of religion in the funding of schools in Ontario.” Mr. Schreiner again:
I can’t think of any other place in society where we would allow two-thirds of our teachers to be denied employment opportunity. The Catholic board denies employment to non-catholic teachers and I don’t think you see that discrimination in hiring anywhere in Ontario especially by something that is funded by public tax dollars.
That doesn’t mean I believe we should completely eliminate religious teaching in our public schools. Far from it, I actually believe we should have more, as elective classes, and taught objectively instead of through a particular religious lens. As Mr. Schreiner says:
That doesn’t mean you can’t have religious education in the public system, you just can’t do it in a way that prioritizes one religion and excludes others.
This process would be a tremendous battle for our province, but it is absolutely the right thing to do. I hope that all parties will one day see this reality, and push to create a single, unified, fair and efficient school system.