7 News Archive
A hot night in Riverdale

By Ulli Diemer
Seven News, June 3, 1978

It was a hot, hot night last Tuesday in Toronto. But it was hotter yet in the Riverdale Collegiate auditorium, where the heat came not only from the weather but also from upwards of 300 people crammed into the seats, aisles, doorways, and lobby, from the tempers of those people as they gathered to see what they could do about educational cutbacks.

And perhaps it was hottest of all on stage, where spokesmen from the provincial government and the Metro School Board squirmed and sweated under the lights as they tried to answer a constant flow of hard questions from the parents, teachers, and students in the meeting.

The meeting had been called to take about how cutbacks are damaging the quality of education at Riverdale Collegiate and it was clear from the beginning that people were not going to accept the glib statements of educational bureaucrats and politicians – those of them who bothered to show up. Both Metro and provincial government were represented by low-level functionaries who admitted they couldn’t answer policy questions, and Dennis Colby, the Ward 8 school trustee whose immaturity is surpassed only by his insensitivity, didn’t dare to put in an appearance after having earlier told Riverdale students that they didn’t have the right to expect a good education, and that they shouldn’t aspire to anything more than delivering phone books.

As speaker after speaker hammered the government’s education policies, a number of points emerged:
* Education spending is lagging far behind the rate of inflation.
* At the same time, the provincial government is drastically reducing its share of education financing.
* As a result, property taxes are going up.
* The main beneficiaries of education spending are the corporations who need educated, trained employees. But the corporate share of education financing and general taxation has gone down at an incredible rate: For example between 1970 and 1975 corporation profits increased 131 per cent, but during the same time corporate taxes actually decreased by 41.5 per cent.
* Rapid teacher layoffs are resulting in larger classes, fewer programs, fewer extra-curricular activities.
* Working-class and immigrant areas are being hardest hit by the effects of these cutbacks.

Several general demands emerged from the meeting:

Maintenance of education spending at a level that will maintain the present quality of education.

No teacher layoffs: As enrollment goes down much-needed decreases in class size can slowly be brought about.

Financing of education through taxes based on ability to pay: income and corporation taxes, rather than property taxes.

The meeting approved plans for contacting parent, teacher, student, and community groups across the city to get their help in organizing against cutbacks by circulating petitions and organizing meetings and protests.

This article was puublished in Seven News, Volume 9, Number 2, June 3, 1978

Related topics: Education FinancingPublic EducationSchool FundingToronto/Riverdale