Archives for: November 2014

11/18/14

Permalink 09:05:42 pm, by mleslie Email , 30 words, 216 views   English (CA)
Categories: Toronto updates

Toronto Star editorial: Province should step in to clear up mess at TDSB

November 18, 2014 - The province needs to step in to mediate confrontation between trustees and TDSB director Donna Quan, and appoint an investigator to get to the bottom of trustee spending.

11/09/14

Permalink 12:25:45 pm, by mleslie Email , 563 words, 273 views   English (CA)
Categories: Toronto updates

Parent Fundraising - How the Globe and Mail Got it Wrong (Part 4)

by Marshall Leslie (the owner of this blog).

In Saturday’s follow-up to Monday’s front page feature, the Globe and Mail’s education reporters repeat the errors made in their first article about school fundraising (see: “The Great Divide”). They rely on flawed data, a broken school calculator, gloss over the scope of fundraising , and don’t relate anything to the reader about the TDSB’s Learning Opportunities program.

The information on “fundraising” provided by the TDSB – and accepted by the Globe - has been rejected by Deloitte, the TDSB’s own auditor. In 2013 Deloitte wrote: “Adequate documentation and controls were not in place throughout the year to allow us to obtain satisfactory audit verification as to the completeness of these revenues”. In addition, the TDSB does not follow guidelines released by the Ontario Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) for “school generated funds”, which classify “fundraising” as one of eight different sources to be reported under the school generated funds heading. The TDSB incorrectly identify these sources in their financial statements under the incorrect caption “fundraising” (sic) and the Globe’s reporters – unlike Deloitte, OASBO and parents – have failed to notice this difference.

The Globe’s online “school fundraising tool” also doesn’t work. In print, the Globe reports that Jackman Avenue P.S. parents raised $100,000 last year, or about $148 per student. The Globe’s online tool says the per student amount was $342. At Runnymede P.S. attended in the past by my children, the Globe online tool says the per student amount was $153 when in actual fact the fundraised amount was $62. In other words, the Globe’s online tool over estimates school fundraising by between 200 and 250 percent.

The Globe’s articles only report on elementary schools, and the online tool has no information on secondary schools. Why does the Globe ignore secondary schools? It is because secondary schools were allowed to assess a compulsory student activity fee many years ago that freed parents from all but minor fundraising. This fee – in Toronto about $60 per student per year – surpasses the amount that most elementary schools feel they are compelled to fundraise, except at a handful of schools. Instead, secondary schools often fundraise on behalf of external organizations like juvenile cancer research, or the environment, and at several schools these campaigns during school hours can raise as much as $30,000 in a day. In the past (it hasn’t been permitted for many years) parents raised even more substantial amounts for capital items like heating systems and school additions.

While some readers may be left with the conclusion that well-intentioned but misguided middle-class parents are promoting inequity in the public education system, the reality is very different. While the amount of money raised by school councils in all but five or six cases would not equal the cost of a substitute teacher, the equity effort undertaken by the TDSB is significant. In the last fiscal year, the Learning Opportunities grant amount spent by the TDSB was $125 million. It is apportioned using a “Learning Opportunities Index” that Toronto parents would be proud of – if they knew more about it and if the Globe’s reporters would write about it.

The decision by the Globe to focus attention on fundraising came one week after school board elections. Its timing, flawed research and motive are a puzzle. But what is plain is Globe readers deserve better.

11/05/14

Permalink 02:21:27 pm, by mleslie Email , 111 words, 167 views   English (CA)
Categories: Toronto updates

Parent Fundraising - How the Globe and Mail Got it Wrong (Part 3)

by Marshall Leslie (the owner of this blog).

The finance committee of the Ontario Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) published its first "Guidelines For School Generated Funds" in 2003, with revisions in 2009 and 2014. (Please click on the headline to access the Guidelines). It is an extensive and detailed examination of the issue for use by parents, teachers, and administrators. If you are a parent (or a Globe and Mail education reporter) please read it. Among other things, it describes the eight (8) different categories of school generated funds - only one of which is parent fundraising - that account for these uses and which are a source of confusion to so many.

11/04/14

Permalink 03:56:22 pm, by mleslie Email , 126 words, 171 views   English (CA)
Categories: Toronto updates

Parent Fundraising - How the Globe and Mail Got it Wrong (Part 2)

by Marshall Leslie (the owner of this blog).

Yesterday, I rebutted both the data and the interpretation of the data in a Globe and Mail article: “Toronto school fundraising raises questions about equity in public-education”. It turns out I was not alone.

The national accounting firm Deloitte withheld its opinion of the Toronto District School Board's 2012 and 2013 consolidated financial statements because of the inadequacy of TDSB fundraising reports and stated: "In common with many school boards, individual schools derive revenue from school fundraising activities held throughout the year. Adequate documentation and controls were not in place throughout the year to allow us to obtain satisfactory audit verification as to the completeness of these revenues" ...

Please follow the link, to the top of page 5 of Deloitte's report.

11/03/14

Permalink 09:06:37 am, by mleslie Email , 331 words, 167 views   English (CA)
Categories: Toronto updates

Parent Fundraising - How the Globe and Mail Got it Wrong

by Marshall Leslie (the owner of this blog).

On today’s front-page, the Globe and Mail carries an article under the headline: “Toronto school fundraising raises questions about equity in public-education”. The authors – who did not interview any parents actually engaged in fundraising activity – simply failed in their research.

Here is how the Globe and Mail got it wrong:
1) school generated funds are not the same as school council fundraising. They include money from a variety of sources unrelated to fundraising, like cafeterias
2) school generated fund reporting double counts and inflates school fundraising efforts, as transactions are recorded over again between school council and other school accounts
3) the amount of money raised by school councils is dwarfed by the amount that is transferred by the TDSB and the Ministry of Education for inner city school communities supported under the “Learning Opportunities Index” and “Model School” programs
4) the amount of money raised by school councils is typically a fraction of one percent of the cost of operating a school
5) the article focuses on elementary schools and ignores the long established secondary school tradition of one-time compulsory student activity fees – introduced long ago to the relief of parents who fundraised throughout their children’s early years. (In Toronto these are about $60 per student per year). Compulsory secondary student activity fees are the simple substitution for voluntary elementary school fundraising.
6) the article ignores the fact that the biggest school-based fundraising efforts aren’t for schools at all, but for societal objectives like fighting cancer. Some of these school-based campaigns will raise as much as $30,000 in a single day, in Toronto
7) parent fundraising in Toronto is actually at a low-ebb. In the past, parents raised money to pay for capital items like school heating systems.

Fundraising by elementary school parents is not a problem – it is a community-building response that fills a few simple needs. The real problem is TDSB staff who want to weaken school councils, and journalists who don’t do their research.

Toronto and Area Information Updates

Many Toronto schools are badly in need of energy retrofit, major maintenance and facility renewal. In some school communities additions are required and sometimes a new building. Currently, these projects are undertaken under the Province of Ontario's "Good Places to Learn" programme, in partnerships or special purpose organizations like the Toronto Lands Corporation.

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