Establish an independent, external review of Ontario’s education funding formula that will provide recommendations on what is required to update the formula so it reflects actual student needs.
Ontario’s education funding formula needs to be fully reviewed and reformed. It is based on a model introduced two decades ago that was designed to reduce overall expenditure for public schools. While the previous Liberal government increased education funding by introducing important initiatives such as primary class size caps and full-day kindergarten, it failed to address some of the original cuts imposed by the predecessor government. Under the current government, the funding gaps have only increased.
The problems of the 1998 funding model that have not been adequately addressed include: funding for English and French as second language programming; funding for basic school-level facilities and services such as libraries, guidance, music, art, and physical education; funding to support local priorities; and funding for school operations and maintenance. The latter issue has received considerable attention in recent years and was the subject of a research report that documents a backlog in maintenance and repairs of school facilities amounting to more than $16 billion – that backlog has only increased since then.
ETFO members’ identification of increasing incidence of classroom violence has also focused on the need for smaller classes in kindergarten and grades 4 to 8, as well as more student supports on the part of special education resource teachers, educational assistants, and paraprofessionals such as behavioural therapists, psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and child and youth workers. Ontario’s education funding model needs to reflect the broad range of support students need to be successful learners.
The last comprehensive review of the Ontario education funding formula was by the Education Equality Task Force headed by Dr. Mordechai Rozanski in 2002. In its 2007 election platform, the Ontario Liberal Party committed to reviewing the education funding formula by 2010. That review never took place. Since then, successive Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments have not held a review of the education funding formula.
ETFO commissioned an analysis of education funding and released the findings in 2017. A number of other education organizations have come forward to join ETFO in calling for a full external review of the funding formula. In her 2017 Annual Report, Ontario’s Auditor General also concludes that benchmarks in the funding formula are out of date and that there should be a full external review of education funding. In 2018, a poll conducted by ETFO indicated that 76 per cent of Ontarians believe it’s time for an external review of the education funding formula.