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

11/09/14

Permalink 12:25:45 pm, by mleslie Email , 563 words, 295 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.

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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