By Wendy Terry
Before we talk about Municipal Elections and Adult Education, let’s look at Municipal elections in general.
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS – THREE VOTES
Municipal elections are the most complex because you vote for 3 representatives: a Mayor for your city, a Councillor for your ward, and a School Trustee for your ward. There are no declared political party affiliations for all these candidates to help guide your decision. You vote for the individual.
If you live in the Greater Toronto Area GTA, the Mayor and Councillor for your city also represents you on a Regional Council. Like the Pickering Mayor and Councillors also represent you on the Durham Regional Council along with the Mayor and Councillors for other cities in Durham Region like Oshawa and Whitby. They elect a Chair for the Regional Council from amongst themselves.
In the provincial and federal elections, you vote for a Member of Provincial Parliament MPP, and a Member of Parliament MP whose party affiliation is noted on the ballot. The leader of the party who wins the most ridings becomes Premier (provincial) or Prime Minister (federal). You do not vote for the Premier or Prime Minister. You vote for them only if you are living in the riding they are running to be the MPP or MP. Canadians only vote directly for the Mayor of their city.
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS – ADULT EDUCATION
As adult students you should ask whomever is running in your wards about Adult Education. Some will tell you that Municipal government has little to do with Adult Education, that it is under the management of the Province for the most part (colleges, universities, career colleges) or the federal government if it relates to training. But they would be wrong!
By understanding how Municipal government impacts Adult Education, you will be able to query your Councillor, or your School Board Trustee and, in the process, you might educate them. Often, they will tell you they do not have any control over adult education but they do. How? Let’s see!
COUNCILLORS – ADULT EDUCATION
Municipal governments, have library committees which Councillors sit on and, as an adult student, you use the public libraries. Many adults attend the libraries’ “What’s On?” events. Councillors also sit on the Parks and Recreation Committees. These centres run both Arts and Recreation programs for adults. See “Toronto Fun” program guide.
Municipal governments fund community associations through specific programs. Some offer adult education programs. “Skills for Change”, St Stephen’s Community House, and Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office are just a few of the community associations that get funding from multiple sources and who offer adult education programs. These associations have multiple sources of funding: Federal, if they run employment services; Provincial, if they run programs like Literacy Basic Skills; and Municipal for programs like ones for youth. Your Councillor should know how the associations in their ward, which Toronto funds to help you learn and improve your skills. Search 211 for community programs that run in your ward.
Tell your Councillor where you learn – the library, Recreation Centre, or a community association. Ask them if they will support adult education at these sites. Tell them what would help you.
You can call 311 to see who your Mayor and Councillor candidates are.
Schools Adult Ed – School Trustees
TORONTO SCHOOL BOARD
School Trustees oversee school programs that adults attend: for example, Adult Day School programs where you can earn a high school diploma, ESL programs and LINC programs where you learn English (back to these two in a moment). At the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), there are Learn4Life programs run by Continuing Education. These are general interest courses but many of these courses are work skills related. Then there is Community Education at the TDSB which runs Employment Ontario Centres where you apply for Second Career funding (training for laid-off workers) as well as other adult education programs.
Continuing Education offers self-financed programs “Learn4Life” from student fees. These General Interest courses used to be funded by the provincial government up until the mid 1980’s at all school boards throughout the province. When this funding was cut ($6 an hour), only some Boards continued the programs on a user pay basis.
LINC programs are funded by the Federal government through provincial agreements and, in the TDSB, they are offered through Community Education. ESL programs are funded by the provincial government and offered in the TDSB through Continuing Education. The idea is Continuing Education offers programs with standard accepted provincial funding and Community Education applies for grant-based programs from federal and provincial governments
Adult Day School programs are offered by the Continuing Education department at the TDSB and funded by the provincial government. Literacy Basic Skills programs are offered by the Community Education Department and funded by the provincial government. Now they are called Essential Skills.
A lot of TDSB school trustee candidates may not understand there are these two silos of administration for adult education: Continuing Education and Community Education.
One more thing. There are four School Boards in Toronto: the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto Catholic District School Board, the Toronto French School Board and Toronto Catholic French School Board. All are run by elected trustees. The Toronto Catholic School Board has a good range of Adult Education programs.
So how do you know which Board you vote for? When you go to vote, the polling clerk will ask you which School Board you support.
If you have kids in school, ask their school which Board they come under. If you are the only one in your family as an adult going to school, ask your school which Board your program comes under.
You can call 311 to see who your School Trustee candidates are.
School Boards in the Greater Toronto Area
Other school boards in the GTA have a different organization for adult education, only one adult education department usually under Continuing Education.
Now, I have just described Toronto but Learning Curves is delivered in Peel Region (the cities of Mississauga and Brampton), York Region (the cites of Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham), Durham Region (cities of Pickering, Whitby and Oshawa) and Halton Region, (city of Oakville). Note: I have just named the cities where we deliver Learning Curves, not all the ones in these regions. These cities have a Mayor, Councillors but School Trustees are elected for the whole Region
To be clear in these regions you elect a Mayor and Councillors for your city who also represents you on a Regional Council, and the School Board Trustees are elected for the region. You would elect a school trustee for the Peel District School Board or the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board; the York Region School Board or, the York Region Catholic District School Board; the Durham School Board or the Durham Catholic District School Board; and, finally the Halton District School Board or the Halton Catholic District School Board.
Call 311 to have them show you how to see a list of candidates.
Speak up for Adult Education in the Municipal Elections
Take the time to make your Municipal candidates Mayor, Councillors, Trustees understand how your adult education program is part of their mandate. Tell them what you would like to see more of. Ask if they support adult education.
During an election is the time when candidates reach out to you and listen. Let them know what they could do to help you and other adult learners!
Contact the ones who got elected and remind them about their Adult Education constituency.