School Board Candidates Push For One English School Board

A couple of candidates running for school board trustee in Windsor-Essex are pushing for one publicly funded English school system.

Alan Halberstadt, who is running for re-election at the Greater Essex County District School Board, Henry Lau who is running for a seat at the public school board and Eric Renaud, who is running for trustee at the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board want to start the conversation of having one school system.

The candidates believe it doesn't make sense for both boards to compete for students, especially since the Catholic school board allows non-Catholic students to attend its schools.

Under one publicly-funded system, they say it could save $6-million in local administrative costs which would be pumped into the special education that is chronically underfunded.

For every student that attends school, it brings $12,000 to that school board according to Halberstadt.

A roundtable discussion with public school board trustees is set for Thursday evening at 6pm at the Fogolar Furlan Club — school board merger will be one of the topics that is raised.

"I think the cost of education has been rising considerably and continues to rise so I think we need to do something to find efficiencies," says Halberstadt.

Chair of the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board Barb Holland, says a merger of the boards is an irresponsible subject to talk about during a municipal election.

"Anything to do with education would be decided provincially so it's really a provincial issue and our government has already stated that they have no intention of ending funding for Catholic education and in fact, they celebrate the fact that the four publicly funded systems work so well together."

Parent and former local Green Party candidate Krysta Glovasky-Ridsdale, says having two publicly funded systems is not right.

"They are all funded by our tax dollars, they are all funded by our property taxes, in makes no sense to fund one and not the other when they are allowed to recruit and basically steal students from each other, they shouldn't be like that, it shouldn't be a contest to see who can win the most number of students, it doesn't make sense."

Holland says declining enrolment is not the reason why they started accepting non-Catholic students. She tells AM800 News it’s because they took steps to save money and introduced new programs that attracted more students.

"What we did is we looked at all of our facilities and we decided that we had too many facilities for the number of children that we would be educating 10 to 15 years down the road,” says Holland. “So we took the financial resources we saved by having accommodation reviews and poured that into programming, so our board is in an extraordinary healthy positon where declining enrolment is no longer an issue. The fact that our system continues to grow is because of those investments.”

The Greater Essex County District School Board declined an interview and says "it's not the place of administration to comment on what is a political issue."


— with files from AM800's Kristylee Varley