Empty Seats and Hollow Rhetoric: Green Party and Teachers’ Unions Agree

(Guelph): Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario and candidate in Guelph, called on the government to solve the problem of empty seats in Ontario schools by merging the school boards.

“Access to community schools is threatened by our present system, especially in rural areas,” said Schreiner. “We have to double up on everything to ensure there are places for students in all four boards. We have half-empty schools that are right across the street from each other because one is a Catholic school and one isn’t.”

2012 figures show that 35% of the seats in schools in northern Ontario are empty. The problem is especially acute in the French boards. In northern French schools, nearly half of the seats are empty.

“There are two schools in North Bay that are right across the street from each other, neither of which is even close to half-full,” said Schreiner. “Their combined enrollment is 236 and they have capacity for 622 students. Why can’t we put those schools together?”

The Minister of Education, Liz Sandals, has suggested schools could share space to save approximately $300 million a year in redundant overhead expenses presently paid by the province to service empty seats.

The Liberal government remains committed, however, to holding on to the present system and its financial waste, discriminatory hiring practices, and religious segregation.

“If we are going to share space, we should share curriculum and activities too,” said Matt Richter, Education Critic for the Green Party and candidate in Parry Sound—Muskoka. “I don’t think it’s good for a publicly-funded school system to show open support for some religious practices and beliefs, and not for others.”

The Green Party wants one publicly-funded school system with French and English boards in each jurisdiction. The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation both endorse the merger.

Mike Schreiner and the Green Party want to bring honesty, integrity, and good public policy to Ontario’s schools and to Queen’s Park.

Media contact: Candice Lepage