Changes to Ontario education funding and policy will have a long-term impact
Substantial funding cuts coming to Ontario school boards
On March 15th, the Minister of Education announced that the province was modernizing curriculum, going “back to basics” in math, and making significant reductions in funding for school boards. According to Ministry documents, school boards will receive the details about funding by the end of April.
Impacts on classrooms
- Elementary school
- Currently school boards receive funding for one teacher for every 24 students in grades 4 to 8. They will now be funded at a rate of one teacher for every 25 students. While this seems like a small change, it reduces the number of funded teacher positions across the province by at least 1,000, and represents a funding cut of approximately $99.6 Million.
- High school
- Changes in secondary school are even more significant. Currently boards receive funding for one teacher per 22 students. That funding will decline. Next year, boards will get funding for one teacher for every 28 students. This will result in at least 6,000 fewer high school teacher positions, and a funding cut of approximately $498 million.
- To ensure that no teachers are involuntarily laid-off, and to make up for cases where teacher retirements and attrition don’t make up for funding cuts, the province will introduce “top-up” funding to be provided to boards over the next four years as the number of teaching positions are eliminated.
- Currently funding for secondary school teachers allows boards and schools flexibility to provide a wide range of class sizes. They can have very small classes where students at-risk can be supported to be successful and graduate; small classes for courses where students are using complicated equipment, or arts classes where there may be low enrolment. They can balance out the small classes with larger class sizes where the curriculum content makes it possible to teach 30 students at the same time. The funding cut for secondary school teachers will make it very difficult for boards to continue to provide specialty classes or classes with low-enrolment.
- There are currently no provincial caps on class sizes in secondary schools. However individual boards’ collective agreements often include caps on a range of specialized classes, including things like Applied courses in grades 9 and 10, specialty classes for students who may be at risk, or alternative education courses. The reduction in funding from the province will make it difficult, if not impossible, for boards to meet local class size agreements, while continuing to support a wide range of courses – particularly in smaller schools.
- Local Priorities
- In 2017/18, the province introduced a Local Priorities Fund that could support students-at-risk by funding “about 875 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers and about 1,600 to 1,830 FTE education workers.” On March 15th the province announced that boards could no longer count on this funding, and that it would be subject to results of provincial contract negotiations. This is a cut of $235.4 million.
- Early childhood educators
- Funding for early childhood educators (ECE) for full-time kindergarten is also provided on a per-pupil basis and in accordance with class size regulations. Currently there is funding for 1.14 ECEs per 25 students, which provides boards with some flexibility. The changes announced will result in a funding cut of approximately $39.5 Million.
- Currently approximately 5% of students per secondary school are enrolled in at least one online course. Starting in 2021, the province will centralize delivery of e-learning courses, and make it mandatory that all students take at least 4 of their mandatory 30 credits in an online course. This will result in an immediate cut to the Secondary Programming Amount which funds approximately 490 secondary teachers – a funding cut of approximately $40.7 Million.
|Provincial estimates of financial impact of education changes announced March 15|
|Area affected||Funding Changes *||Impact on staffing/funding|
|Kindergarten||Funded Early Childhood Educators (ECE) classroom staffing ratio change from 1.14 FTE to 1.0 FTE||Estimated cut: $39.5 Million|
|Grades 4 to 8||Funded average class size adjusted from 23.84 to 24.5||1200 fewer teacher positions funded
Estimated cut: $99.6 Million
|Grades 9 to 12||Funded average class size adjusted from 22 to 28||6,000 fewer teacher positions funded
Estimated cut: $498 Million
|E-learning||Funded average class size adjusted to 35 starting in 2020-21 school year||no details yet available|
|Secondary Programming Amount||Funding to end August 31, 2019||Estimated cut: $40.7 Million|
|Local Priorities Fund||Funding to end August 31, 2019 – depending on contract negotiations||Approximately 2000 fewer staff funded (teachers & education workers)
Estimated cut: $235 Million
|Cost Adjustment Allocation||Base amount to end August 31, 2019||Estimated cut: $64 million|
|Human Resource Transition Supplement||Funding to end August 31, 2019||Estimated cut: $10 Million|
|TOTAL ESTIMATED FUNDING CUT (not including previously announced cuts)||$986.8 Million|
- Over the next four years, the province will phase in a new math curriculum for all grades, which will focus on “basic” concepts. New legislation is also under consideration which, if passed, would require all new teachers to pass a math test before they can teach. By the spring of 2020, teachers will have to pass the test in order to be certified by the Ontario College of Teachers.
- Grade 10 Career Studies
- In September 2019, two new areas of focus will be added to the compulsory grade 10 Careers Course: a strand on “the changing nature of work, the role of transferable skills, and the importance of STEM in key high growth industries”, and a component focused on financial literacy.
- Health and Physical education
- Revised elementary Health and Physical Education (HPE) curriculum will be implemented in September 2019. It is, for the most part, the same as HPE curriculum first introduced in 2015. Changes include new mandatory learning about concussions starting in grade 1, and moving up the gender identity and gender expression component of the curriculum to grade 8.
- The curriculum will be supported by online modules that parents can access to help them understand it, and, if they care to, to introduce topics to their children when they feel they are ready. The new policy will also include an option to opt-out for parents – but details about that are not yet available.