Over the past few weeks, the city has been shocked by allegations the Toronto District School Board has been paying ludicrously inflated maintenance fees to the 900 unionized trades workers who have an exclusive contract with the TDSB. In this imaginative Globe exclusive, the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council makes its case to the head of the TDSB for maintaining the status quo.
ATTN: Chris Spence, TDSB director of education
Cc: Premier Dalton McGuinty
We read with concern and great alarm about your plans to review the "entrenched culture of overspending" for routine repair and maintenance jobs at the Toronto District School Board. Before taking the hatchet to the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council and its exclusive maintenance contract with the TDSB, I urge you to reconsider this, the crown jewel of our educational system.
First of all, where is the overspending you speak of? You yourself cite an example from 15 years ago, when you were an administrator at Lawrence Heights Middle School and were given a quote for a paint job you deemed "extraordinary." The quote was so high you opted not get the painting done. So it sounds like the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council actually saved you money. (The trades council is entitled to a cut of those savings – with interest. An invoice will follow.)
Now ask yourself this: Were any children hurt by unpainted walls?
On the contrary. By exposing children to shabby interiors and sketchy playground equipment, the Trades Council prepared them for the harsh realities of life. When you think about it, the Trades Council was doing the teachers' job for them. (The Trades Council is entitled to a cut of teachers' salaries retroactive to 1997 – with interest. An invoice will follow.)
Even if there were a so-called shakedown taking place – which there isn't – would the kids even care? The TDSB laid off hundreds of educational assistants and reassigned vice principals at schools across the city, in large part to pay for $253,000 in gift cards for Trades Council workers. The children didn't notice a thing. As their math homework goes unchecked and their literacy skills diminish, they won't have the slightest clue they're falling behind their peers in Japan, Germany, China – even Albania.
Now fast-forward 10 years. How are these undereducated kids going to make a decent living?
Unless they get a job with the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council. If it's still around, that is.
So ask yourself this, Dr. Spence: Wouldn't the average Toronto mom be proud to see her undereducated child grow up to make an easy $19,000 for installing a lawn sign that ought to cost a school $2,000?
Education is partly about textbooks, quizzes and book learning. But it's also about dreams. It's about making kids believe that that they, too, are entitled to the ultimate perk of our social democracy: a real loafing wage.
Today's undereducated 10-year-old, after all, is tomorrow's $143 pencil sharpener installer.
Give our children a dream they can believe in, Dr. Spence. Give them the Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council. Their future depends on it. (And if you know what's good for you, so does yours.)
The Toronto District School Board Maintenance and Construction Skilled Trades Council