Say NO to IB fees at Parkdale!

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To the trustees of the Toronto District School Board,

We understand that, among the proposed cuts you will consider passing at the meeting of the Committee of the Whole on Tuesday June 11, is the imposition of a fee of $800-1200 per year for students in the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) at TDSB secondary schools.

We, the undersigned, call on you to NOT impose fees on the International Baccalaureate program at Parkdale Collegiate Institute. Imposing fees will essentially privatize part of the school, thereby deepening inequality within the school and in the neighbourhood as a whole. Even subsidies for lower-income students, or a sliding scale, are inadequate measures and will not stave off a dangerous drop in enrolment that could lead to school closure and the sell-off of public school land.

Background: IB at PCI

The International Baccalaureate is an innovative and enriched academic program normally offered at private schools or for a fee in public school boards. The Toronto District School Board has been offering IB programs for free for years.

Parkdale Collegiate Institute had about 400-450 students in the mid-2000s when it rolled out its IB program. Since then, enrolment has increased, assuaging fears of eventual school closure, as often befalls small neighbourhood schools.

Today, students in the Pre-IB (grade 9 and 10) and IB (grades 11 and 12) programs at PCI make up about 50% of the school population and reflect the working-class and culturally diverse character of the school's immediate neighbourhood. Teachers and students at PCI have been proud that its IB program offers an "elite" world-class education, for free, to youth from low-income families, many of whom are first and second generation immigrants. 

Introducing fees will deter new student enrolment in PCI's IB program, and spur program dropout amongst lower-income students currently in the Pre-IB and IB program. What few IB students remain will come from families in higher income brackets. The IB program will become a program for the financially comfortable and/or wealthy, inside a primarily working-class school and neighbourhood. This goes against the spirit of universal access to high-quality education that underpinned the TDSB's endeavour to offer IB for free at all of its schools. It also goes against the TDSB's own commitment to equity, including class-based equity.

Parkdale's current enrolment is just above 500. IB makes up 50% of the school's population. Charging fees will close off a reliable source of enrolment, and spells school closure down the road.

Neighbourhood Impacts

The Parkdale neighbourhood in Toronto is a primarily working-class community that has over the years resisted attempts at gentrification and exploitation from developers and landlords. The move to charge fees for IB makes the school vulnerable to closure AND we know that it is in the TDSB's interest to sell off that public land as a way to deal with a flawed funding formula and disastrous cuts by the Ford government.

We know that the TDSB, through the Toronto Lands Corporation, sold off the school land at Bloor and Dufferin in 2016 to a triad of developers including Timbercreek Asset Management (which has tried to illegally "reno-vict" tenants in its buildings right in Parkdale - see http://parkdaleorganize.ca/2019/03/13/west-lodge-vs-timbercreek/ Since then, the Bloor-Dufferin community has asked the developer to include in its mega-condo building plans a community hub, a daycare, and deeply affordable housing, to no avail (see https://buildbloordufferin.ca/

Imposing fees on IB students opens the door to class-based inequality within Parkdale Collegiate Institute, potential school closure, and potential sell-off of public land to abusive for-profit developers.  

We urge the trustees to vote against a budget that would impose fees on the IB program at Parkdale Collegiate Institute, not least because it would violate the TDSB's own Equity Foundation Statement which reads:

 "The TDSB will ensure that our school system is built on the principles of anti-Oppression, Anti-Racism, Non-discrimination, equitable and Inclusive Education, which...g.iii identifies and eliminates barriers; All students and staff are supported equitably through the identification and removal of discriminatory Bias and or Barriers, whether individual, systemic or intersecting, that limit their ability to equal access, participation and/or outcomes in schools and workplaces and achieve their full potential."