Twenty years after the Mike Harris Conservative government implemented its education funding formula in 1997, many of its core functions remain in place. By design, it was intended to squeeze funding for the system and to centralize control at the provincial level. It was based on the politics of division, pitting the educational needs of students and the need for infrastructure upgrades of schools against financial compensation of teachers and the power of local school boards.
The political tone changed with the election of a Liberal government in 2004 and the promise from then Premier Dalton McGuinty to become the education Premier. But the education funding formula, which is at the heart of core challenges to Ontario’s education system, has not been revisited. It is time for a course correction. This report maps out a blueprint for an adequately funded, high quality, publicly accountable education system that meets the needs of every student in Ontario. It’s time to articulate a new set of principles for elementary and secondary education in Ontario that lay out a unifying vision for public schools—one that starts by asking: what does a school need in order to fulfill its function?