The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is known for having its fair share of scandals, issues, and problems. Allegations of plagiarism and corruption are among the most recent controversies to plague the Board [1], and while these are among TDSB’s more “flashy” issues, declining enrolment has been an important and longstanding one as well. Alarmingly, the TDSB continues to deal with severely declining enrolment to this day.

Since its establishment in 1998, the TDSB has experienced rapidly declining enrolment. In just four years from 2011 to 2015, enrolment throughout TDSB schools dropped 6% [2][3]. This decrease has most recently led to 100 staff cuts [4], and more potential school closures [5]. Despite the fact that Toronto’s population is increasing, TDSB’s enrollment is surprisingly decreasing. Students and families dissatisfied with the quality of their education are leaving the school board, opting to attend other school boards, private schools, or homeschools.

Much of the blame for declining enrolment has fallen onto the TDSB, but when examined more carefully, it can be seen that there are other factors and parties to blame. At a glance, the TDSB certainly has contributed factors that lead to the discontentment of students leaving the school board. Among them, multiple teacher strikes, the poor introduction of full-day kindergarten, and the unveiling of a new and controversial sex-ed curriculum. Backlash against the sex-ed’s content was especially strong in local Thorncliffe Park schools, leading to particularly sharp drops in enrolment: the largest in the 2015-2016 TDSB school year [6].

Although the TDSB has plenty of problems of its own, the most influential factors affecting enrolment are beyond the Board’s control. After all, the TDSB has no power over the provincially-regulated curriculum, nor does it have the ability to control the implementation of full-day kindergarten.

Moreover, the TDSB is not the only board experiencing dwindling numbers. The majority of Ontario school boards have had fewer issues than the TDSB, but their enrolment numbers are still declining [7]. These other Ontario school boards are affected by many of the same exterior enrolment deterrents as the TDSB, namely the provincial government’s curriculum decisions and union strikes.

Declining enrolment is certainly not exclusive to the TDSB, and is instead the result of exterior issues that persist in the TDSB, as well as other school boards. To prevent enrolment from dropping further, steps need to be taken by other parties to fix these exterior issues. The Ontario government should provide clarification to the public regarding the sex-ed curriculum, and decide whether to continue expanding full-day kindergarten. As well, teacher unions need to reach a deal; such exterior issues detract from the quality of education the province provides.

The TDSB can be blamed for their own scandals and controversies, but they are not to blame for declining enrolment. In the end, it is still the TDSB’s responsibility to do as much as they can—even if they have minimal control over enrolment, they should be fixing the problems they can control, such as balancing population distribution.

Illustration: Sheri Kim

Illustration: Sheri Kim