Education funding changes affecting budgets, course choices
School boards and schools across Ontario have made a range of announcements this week – about reductions in course offerings, teacher lay-off notices, and budget shortfalls. Stories from just a few of those boards illustrate what the fall may bring for Ontario’s publicly funded schools.
Retiring teachers cannot be replaced
Alana Murray, director of the Bluewater District School Board, which encompasses Owen Sound and Bruce and Grey Counties, explained that the board sends out layoff notices every year to some teachers warning them that they have been declared surplus. As enrolment numbers are updated and teachers announce their retirements, many, if not most, of those staff are usually recalled.
But this year is different.
In past years, when teachers announced they were retiring, staff who had received layoff notices were recalled to fill the retired teachers’ positions. With the provincial decrease in funding connected to larger class sizes this will no longer happen. Teachers who are retiring cannot be replaced.
In Bluewater, that means they are not sure how many of the 92 secondary and 15 elementary teachers, 62 educational assistants, and four early childhood educators who received layoff notices will be recalled before the fall.
Class size changes reduce course choices
In a number of high schools in the Peel District School Board, students are being asked to revise their schedules for next year, as fewer choices will be offered. The board estimates it will have 300 fewer teachers, and class size funding changes mean the board will lose some of the flexibility it had to offer courses with lower enrolments.
In an article in the Toronto Star, Peter Joshua, director of education for Peel, said “As schools embark on the next phase of the staffing process, they are finding gaps in timetables for students that they are being challenged to fill, given increases to class size. We are also seeing less choice for students in the course reselection process as schools focus on offering courses students are required to take to graduate with a diploma or certificate.”
Two-thirds of boards receive funding cuts
While the Ministry of Education has not released the Education Funding Technical Paper, which provides an overview and details of the formulas and criteria used to calculate school boards’ funding allocations for the year, it has provided projections for each board’s funding for 2019/20.
A quick examination of the Ministry projections shows that 48 out of the province’s 72 school boards will have their funding reduced this year, in many cases, by millions of dollars.
Recently the Toronto District School Board announced plans to cut a number of programs and services to make up for a $67.8 million funding shortfall. The TDSB allocation from the province for its Pupil Foundation Grant, which funds things like teachers, early childhood educators, educational assistants, textbooks, and classroom supplies, has been reduced by $79 million from last year. Some, but not all, of the cut will be made up by the province’s attrition protection fund, which provides boards with top-up funding in cases where the cut to class size funding isn’t matched by the number of teachers who retire or take voluntary leaves. Over the next four years, this cut will become permanent and, as attrition funding runs out, teachers will not be replaced.
While there is still no Technical Paper, the Ministry of Education did send a memo to boards providing them access to the forms boards need to calculate their funding for this year. The memo says that boards’ budgets are to be submitted by June 28, but that they can apply for a 4-week extension.
As school boards begin to do the concrete work of developing their budgets for 2019/2020, the full impact of the funding changes will become more apparent.