Archive for January, 2011

January 14, 2011

Federalizing school fundraising

There’s a secret the Toronto District School Board doesn’t want us to know:

In some schools, chocolate-chip cookies cost a quarter and, in others, they cost a Toonie. So, if I bake 5 dozen cookies for a child in one school, we will raise $15 for the school’s coffers. In the second school, we would raise $120.

What the school board doesn’t want to tell us is just exactly how much money schools are able to raise from their parents and just how little others are able to raise. They don’t want this public because it’s part of the agreement that was made when school council bank accounts were closed and fundraising was brought, properly, under the authority of the school board’s finances; the commitment was that  individual school totals would not be revealed.

But that doesn’t mean the questions should be verboten.

  • How much money is raised by the richest group of schools compared to how much is raised by the poorest? How big is the gap?
  • How many schools have set up private foundations?

The Inner City Advisory Committee, as part of the provincial consultations on fundraising and fees, was able to pry some information out of the school board administration at their December meeting, but it was not provided in writing and was not minuted.

People for Education has been tracking school fundraising for more than a decade. In their 2009 report, they said

Fundraising is a reality in schools across the country, and fundraising activities can be an effective method for engaging parents and school communities, but high levels of fundraising lead to inequities among schools.

So, the Ontario Ministry of Education has heard the call and is conducting consultations on the topic of school fundraising this spring. They should hear some good ideas.

Max Wallace, a self-described rabble rouser, has an idea – federalism: the have-not should receive transfer payments from the haves to ensure a common standard. He has started up a Facebook group, the Coalition against Public School Inequality (CAPSI), to advocate for the idea, and he is making the rounds, talking to administrators, trustees, and journalists. Another parent, Nadia Heyd, has pointed out that the TDSB already has a way to do this. When the TDSB fundraising policy was put together, ten years ago, that idea was enshrined in it:

In its policy documents on fundraising, it also says “To ensure equity, a central equity fund shall be maintained that will hold funds voluntarily donated through a system-wide, curriculum-based fundraising criteria”

But who has heard of it since?

It’s time we talk about this fundamental inequality.

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January 10, 2011

Canadian immigrants, housing and social relationships

A few years ago, Dr. Sutama Ghosh presented the results of her freshly minted thesis at a CERIS seminar on the housing of 30 Bangladeshi immigrant families in three Toronto neighbourhoods. She described one highrise tower she visited where children ran through the apartments of their neighbours, giggling, peeking into the fridge, and playing. Doors to the hallway were unlocked so that the children could have free-run. Mothers watched over each other’s children or visited in the laundry rooms. The community had created a “vertical neighbourhood” in the same way that suburban children might scamper through a set of backyards. Ghosh also described other families living in buildings where they were isolated, walled-off and alone. These apartment buildings, where many new immigrants first settle are, as she phrased it, “vertical neighbourhoods” and “spaces of hope and despair.”

Short and tall

Image by Loozrboy via Flica a few years ago kr

It’s a timely topic because later this week, United Way Toronto should be releasing an in-depth study looking at Torontonians who live in high-rise towers across the city, their well-being, their challenges and their communities.

Canadian geography professors, Brian Ray and Valerie Preston have also looked at the social isolation immigrants and found that building form is vital in explaining how connected immigrants are to their communities. Where Ghosh found hope, Ray and Preston found that isolation was more common, de-bunking the myth that immigrants live in inward-focused ethnic enclaves.

Poor social integration, if it is indeed a problem, may be much more a function of housing than the ethnocultural composition of neighbourhoods.

Those who rented or lived in apartment buildings were less likely to know their neighbours than other immigrants or Canadian-born because the places they lived did not necessarily provide the spaces to meet others. The ability to meet through chance encounters offered in “horizontal neighbourhoods,” ones with sidewalks and nearby stores, is often limited in apartment buildings. Neighbours may see each other in mailrooms or elevator rides. Building lobbies commonly lack a place to sit and socialize.

In a nice contrast, the new buildings in Regent Park have been designed to include common bulletin boards, laundromats with nearby play areas, rooftop garden plots and exercise and party rooms, normally a feature of condo buildings.

However, Ray and Preston also found that immigrants who lived in apartment buildings were just as likely as others to:

  • express a sense of belonging, even through the fleeting interactions with their neighbours, and
  • to have a majority of friends from other ethnic groups, a telling rebuttal to the idea that diversity dilutes trust in others.

They concluded that more thoughtful building designs and public policy would improve the social isolation that many immigrants — and apartment–dwellers — experience, making better neighbours.

Ray also be presents later this week at York University CERIS seminar on a related topic. It’s going to be a good week.

My thanks to blogger Kevin Harris, Neighbourhoods, for referring the Ray, Preston article to me.

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January 2, 2011

2010 in review: WordPress blog mail and more

This is the new year’s message I got from WordPress and some of my own thoughts on the year in More.

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 34 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 107 posts. There were 5 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 846kb.

The busiest day of the year was January 19th with 121 views. The most popular post that day was Toronto Community Partnership Strategy: Priority Neighbourhood Areas revised.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for high crime areas in toronto, toronto neighbourhood crime rates, diane dyson, crime in toronto neighbourhoods, and tdsb loi.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Toronto Community Partnership Strategy: Priority Neighbourhood Areas revised January 2010


Crime hotspots across Toronto neighbourhoods September 2009


About me April 2009


Community Partnership Strategy: Neighbourhood Well-being Index April 2010


Ethnic enclaves in Toronto, 2001 – 2006 February 2009

Some of your most popular posts were written before 2010. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.

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