Education funding changes continue to have impact
In the spring of 2019, the province announced substantial changes to education funding.
Among the major changes:
- School boards would receive funding for high school teachers at a rate of one teacher for every 28 students – up from a rate of 1 per 22. Funding for elementary school teachers from grades 4 to 8, would now be provided at a rate of one teacher per 24.5 students, up from a rate of 1 per 23.84.
- According to the province’s Financial Accountability Office (FAO) – an arms-length body that provides independent analysis to the Legislative Assembly – this means there will be 2,826 fewer teachers (967 elementary teachers and 1,859 secondary teachers) in the system in this year.
- In four years, if the province moves ahead with these funding changes and with its plans to make it mandatory for graduation that students take 4 e-learning courses with a ratio of 35 students to 1 teacher, the FAO estimates there will be 10,054 fewer teachers (994 elementary teachers and 9,060 secondary teachers) than there would have been without the funding reductions.
- The province also announced transition funding in the spring so that no teacher would lose their job because of these particular funding changes. The transition funding will slowly diminish over the next four years as teachers retire or resign. But the end result is the same, thousands fewer teachers in the system.
- In its report the FAO stated:
“The FAO projects the Teacher Job Protection Fund will cost $1.3 billion over four fiscal years, $0.3 billion less than the $1.6 billion committed by the Province. The FAO forecasts that teacher attrition will be higher than projected by the ministry, which will allow the Province to achieve its class size objectives without needing to use the full amount of the Teacher Job Protection Fund.”
- The $235 Million Local Priorities Fund, established in 2017-18 to address a range of staffing needs, was put on hold pending the outcomes of bargaining.
- Funding for early childhood educators (ECE) for full-time kindergarten was reduced by approximately $39.5 Million.
- The Secondary Programming Amount (approximately $52 Million) which funded approximately 490 secondary teachers, was eliminated.
- In July, the province announced the elimination of the $100 Million Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, earmarked for school repairs.
Contract talks may result in further changes
According the media, a component of the recent provincial settlement with CUPE, if ratified, will reinstate $58.3 million of the Local Priorities Fund, and add back $20 million per year to cover the costs of 300 full-time equivalent CUPE jobs across the province. This funding will result in the re-hiring of a number of support staff including custodians, school office staff, and educational assistants.
The settlement with CUPE included a 1% per year cap on salary increases – something that the province has committed to for all contract negotiations.
Provincial negotiations with the four teachers’ federations, whose contracts also expired at the end of August, are ongoing. The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation has launched a site to keep the public informed about the collective bargaining process. Among the items they want to negotiate is a roll-back on the changes to class size funding.
Overall funding reductions add up to nearly $1 Billion per year
According to the FAO, the changes will result in a significant reduction in funds available to school boards. The FAO estimates that enrolment growth and inflation alone will increase costs by 2.7% per year, but the province has committed to spending increases of only 1%. The FAO estimates that this will represent a cut of approximately $900 million per year, once the changes are fully implemented.
Overall, the FAO estimates that increasing class sizes (including through the introduction of mandatory e-learning), net of the cost of the Teacher Job Protection Fund, will save the Province $2.8 billion over the next five fiscal years, including $0.1 billion in the 2019-20 fiscal year. Once the new class size policies are fully implemented, and the Teacher Job Protection Fund is no longer required, the Province will save an estimated $0.9 billion per year.