With education being second only to health care as a public expense in Ontario, it is not a surprise that it generates numerous public policy issues. Regardless of your political stance, the recent election in Ontario is going to bring a different approach to many public services, including public education. Add to this the complexity of a system serving over 50,000 students across almost 5,000 square kilometers in 108 different settings and you get an idea of the need for an experienced representative.

The next four to five years are going to be ones of change, with an emphasis on fiscal restraint and reallocation of scarce public resources. Where do we allocate the funds to delivery quality education for all of our students? How do we continue to best serve students from a diverse economic and cultural background?

Special Education is an area that has some very high demands right now throughout Ontario. We need to ensure that we are doing the best job possible for students with a range of exceptionalities while at the same time, not losing focus on our regular classroom learners. This area of our budget alone has annual costs approaching the 75 million dollar range. As demand for more specialized services grow, so does the importance of making sound investments in this area. We are making gains in many of thee areas, but we need to continue making decisions that have lasting impacts.

Transportation is another pressure point. This past year we barely made our budget for this vital service. Despite having looked at the transportation funding model numerous times, the previous provincial government did not make any lasting, well informed decisions on this. Boards must continue to pressure the province to reevaluate this funding model based on real world data, not just formulas that throw a few dollars here and there to appease larger boards that may or may not be the most efficient.

Capital investments are crucial to student and staff well being. In addition, good decision making on this front ensures that buildings that the public have paid for are maximized for their value. Simcoe County and other boards outside the GTA at times have a difficult time getting services that are decently priced due to the fact that contractors can make more profit sticking closer to the GTA areas. Does it make sense to have on staff contractors for smaller jobs, rather than hiring out? Funds saved may be better used for projects that require outside expertise.

Recent provincial cancellations of extra funding for energy efficiency improvements cost our board 2.5 million dollars. But we still need to find ways of making these investments, as costs for electricity, natural gas, and water continue to rise. We need to continue to make smart investments that may cost some money in the short term, but have lasting impact to our energy consumption and carbon footprint.