The Arts at the TDSB: Flourishing and Thriving

My name is Robin Pilkey,
and I’m the trustee for Ward 7, Parkdale Hyde Park. I’m also the current chair of
the Toronto District School Board. At the TDSB, there’s something
for everybody in the arts. Arts education is
an essential part of school for
students of all ages and we are proud to have some
of the most dynamic programming and sought after programs
and schools in the country. Whether it’s dance, drama, media
arts, visual arts, or music, the TDSB provide students
with an incredible variety of options and the
opportunity to learn from staff who are among the
most talented and qualified in the arts community. Every year, the TDSB spends
millions of dollars on the arts and we’re proud of this
important investment. The arts are a key component
in all of our schools and for students interested
in specializing in the arts, we have plenty to offer. To name a few, we have
two elementary schools and four secondary schools
specializing only in the arts. Two additional secondary schools
with a focus on visual arts. And two elementary schools
and four secondary schools with a special
focus on cyber arts. For more information,
please check out our web page, Spotlight on
the Arts on the TDSB website. You will see that the arts
are flourishing and thriving at the TDSB. Last year, we had to
make significant budget reductions of $68 million
to balance the budget. As difficult as it was, we
made reductions in many areas so no one program
or no one service would shoulder the
brunt of the reduction or have to be eliminated. By far, the largest cuts were
to centrally assigned staff, including senior management,
with over $17 million dollars or 25% of the total
budget reductions. I can assure you
that every effort was made to reduce the
impact on students, schools, and programs. Yes, there were
budget reductions that affected the arts. But it’s important to know that
the arts were not targeted. In fact, prior to
2019, I can’t recall a past budget that included
any reduction to the arts. Would we like to
have the money back? Of course. No one wants to make budget
cuts to any programs or schools. We all want what’s best
for all our students. But unlike the provincial
and federal governments that run huge annual
deficits, school boards must balance their budgets
every year, no exceptions. School boards are dependent
on the provincial government for virtually all funding. If that funding does not
keep pace with our needs, school boards have to
make the tough choices, choices that are also
fair minded and balanced. And last year, that’s
what trustees did. I’m not minimizing the impact. Less funding is being
felt across the system. But I also know that our school
administration, our staff and students are committed
to delivering quality arts programs. I also ask you to
consider the big picture. We need provincial
funding levels that keep pace with
our needs so we’re not facing budget reductions
like this year after year. The Ontario government
is dramatically increasing class size and
reducing teachers, especially at the secondary level. These are significant
challenges with far reaching implications and
consequences for our schools and the number of
programs and courses we can offer our students. This is by far the biggest
threat to arts education. We’re all in this together as
trustees, parents, guardians, students, and staff. We must protect the overall
quality of public education and the funding that
allows us to provide our students with the programs,
services, and opportunities they need to succeed,
both here at the TDSB and whatever our students
choose to do in the future.

Dereck Turner

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