Signs of Life at the Ministry of Education: An Angry Lecce Speaks

TORONTO – We in Ontario are blessed with resources and wealth beyond the reach of most mortal men and women. That must be why we are so tolerant of the lackluster performance of those to whom we entrust our present and future goals. 

In the allocation of jurisdictions between federal and provincial responsibilities, the founders of our Canadian federation deemed it crucial to assign control of Health (ministry for the sick and the dying) and Education (ministry for the not yet knowing) to the provinces. Pardon the levity.

Corriere has been reporting on both for months. It has been an easy and “rich” task not suffering from newsworthy topics. In fact, to coin a phrase reflective of the NDP position – which we do not share – on virtually everything attributable to Queen’s Park (the Legislature), everything is either a crisis or an epidemic. Whether Health-related or Education-related, the problems are never ending.

School boards have resorted to the Courts to sue Tech giants for the damages their technology cause our children under the care of the Schools for at least six hours of the day for 195 days of the year. In the last academic year, 2023-2024, the Ministry of Education granted them $27.084 Billion to educate our future citizens. This represents an increase of 9.6% over the sums granted a mere five years ago while student enrolment has effectively flatlined.

Those boards constantly plead poverty, as they seem to squander the largesse extended by the Ministry under the system acknowledging Student Needs (twenty line items in yearly proposed /approved budget items) with minimal constraints. Heck, the Ministry even authorized debt-service costs of $ 315, 745, 604 to help them adjust to negative impacts of poor planning or “possible in-year funding changes, and forecasts which are impacted by external factors […]”. The Ministry merely asks to be consulted, before it gives permission to spend the public’s money.

One of its boards, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), earned a stinging rebuke from Minister Lecce for asking to “sell-off” schools declared “surplus” in order to liquidate is structural debt of $26.5 million. During a radio interview on 680 News Radio Toronto, as reported by our own Mariella Policheni on April 10, he suggested the proverbial ‘it’s not on the table’, adding that the Board does not appear to have the ability to manage its budget and priorize student services accordingly.

One can only imagine why he would be so frustrated and try to be polite at the same time. In 2023-2024, the TDSB received $ 3.121 Billion (11.5% of the provincial total allocation in grants for student needs) even as it registered a loss of 4% in student population.  Lecce reminded everyone that notwithstanding the reduced student numbers, the province increase the grants by roughly $126 million over the amount granted  five years ago. He also did not add that his Ministry provided the TDSB with $37, 892, 927 in debt service costs – $3.246 million more the previous year.

One could almost hear him say: “enough is enough’!

Meanwhile, at the Toronto Catholic District School Board – which has a declared structural deficit of $58 million – trustees and administrative staff are busy demolishing a perfectly viable elementary school and adjacent convent … to make a parking lot available for teachers. They expect Lecce to [eventually] authorize the expenditure of $ 70 million for a replacement school.

Minister Stephen Lecce (photo from