If trends of the last 15 years hold , it'll be poor Torontonians who'll be forced to bear the brunt of the $85 million in cuts to the school board budget expected this year.
Research commissioned by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation, People for Education, several universities and the Ontario Ministry of Education itself has made it clear that adult, English as a second language, applied/workplace and special education programs - all of which typically serve lower-income learners - are usually the first to get chopped.
By contrast, the board has shown a marked willingness to fund "gifted" and "enriched" programs in high schools in mostly working-class and economically depressed areas, presumably to attract academically oriented middle-class students.
I'm all for this kind of diversity. Having a wide variety of learners in a single school can inspire the less motivated to learn.
But it seems to me that more and more of these programs in the arts, computers, technology, math and sciences are becoming the exclusive domain of academically elite students mostly headed to universities.
The numbers aren't in yet, but observation suggests that students from public housing projects are less likely to be accepted in enriched programs. Potential students are required to pass an admission test to qualify.
Furthermore, while special programs are well supported, with no lack of textbooks or computers, applied-level students are sometimes forced to share textbooks, limiting their ability to complete their homework - and their education.
One can't help but worry that a re-channelling of resources is happening at the expense of English as a second language, adult, lower-stream and special education students.
If the current budget crunch results in the feared cuts, the prevailing perception of our educational system as an equalizer of opportunities may well become just a myth.
It's good that the current government has increased funding for education, but evidently we don't yet have a budget for success for all students.