TORONTO—A report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives finds that, despite the province’s $600 million increase in education spending, 18 of Ontario’s 72 school boards—27.8% of Ontario’s student population—have less total funding on a cost-adjusted basis than they did in 1997. Four public boards—Essex, Peel, Ottawa-Carleton, and Toronto—have less funding per student than they did in 1997.
The report, by CCPA Research Associate Hugh Mackenzie, provides a detailed board-by-board analysis of funding for 2006-7. It exposes deep-seated problems with the funding formula as the true source of this year’s funding squeeze—problems obscured by the current funding squabble.
The main drivers of funding issues for this year:
- Provincially determined initiatives and commitments for 2006-7 carry costs to boards that exceed the total increase in their operating funding.
- Special funding for school boards experiencing enrolment declines has been reduced substantially.
- This year’s funding formula does not adequately provide for cost increases in areas other than teacher salaries. While salary benchmarks have been increased by 2.5%, other benchmarks have either been frozen or adjusted at less than the rate of inflation.
- Realignment of major funding formula components for 2006-7 has had uneven impacts among boards, putting some boards under additional financial stress while providing modest increases for others.
This year’s formula takes no account of the extraordinary—often one-time-only—measures used by boards to balance their 2005-6 budgets, leaving boards that deferred problems to this year with no funding flexibility.
“The problem is that, nearly a decade after its introduction, too little has been done to address fundamental defects in the design of the funding formula imposed by the Harris government in 1998,” says Mackenzie.
Mackenzie identifies several fundamental flaws with the funding formula, including:
- School operations and maintenance are underfunded by more than $350 million across the province.
- Adult credit courses are underfunded by nearly $125 million across the province.
- ESL funding is not appropriately linked to the additional education needs of students whose first language is not English.
- Funding for students at risk through the Learning Opportunities Grant is $250 below the level recommended by the Expert Panel whose work established the grant.
- After this year’s funding realignment, the formula essentially makes no provision for local priorities.
According to the report, until these underlying funding issues are addressed, Ontario’s elementary and secondary education system will continue to operate in an atmosphere of perpetual fiscal stress.
“As a result of funding formula inadequacies, funding for students-at-risk and ESL students has to be diverted to filling formula holes, Mackenzie says. “This means—tragically— that students with the greatest needs are being shortchanged.”
Turning Point? Time to Renovate Ontario’s Education Funding Formula is available on the CCPA web site at http://www.policyalternatives.ca.
For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Communications Officer, at 613-563-1341 x306.