Reducing deficits may mean reducing education funding
Ontario’s government has pledged to reduce provincial spending by as much as $6 billion.
In his introduction to the province’s fall economic statement, the Minister of Finance said, “The road ahead is not an easy one, and will require difficult decisions. Everyone across the province will be required to make sacrifices, without exception.”
These “sacrifices” may affect school boards’ budgets.
Funding is allocated to boards based on things like the number of students in the board, the demographics of the student population, the proportion of rural and remote schools, and funding for special programs. In the spring, school boards will receive detailed information about their funding for the 2019/2020 school year.
Class size may be on the table
In a February 28th letter, the Ministry of Education recommended that school boards “exercise prudence in making hiring decisions in light of the upcoming Ontario Budget and the recent consultation on class size and hiring practices.” This may foreshadow changes to come.
Currently Ontario class size regulations place caps on class sizes for some grades, and limit class size averages for others. Funding for teachers is allocated based on numbers of students, and varies depending on the grade.
This chart shows how funding is currently allocated, and the class size regulations that are in place:
|Grades||Currently funded at a rate of:||Current class size regulations|
|Kindergarten||1 teacher for every 25.57 students
1 early childhood educator for every 22.43 students
|There is a cap of 29 students per class, but up to 10% of kindergarten classes can have as many as 32 students. The board-wide average must be 26 students per class.|
|Primary (grades 1 to 3)||1 teacher for every 19.8 students||There is a cap of 23 students per class, but 90% of classes must have 20 students or fewer.|
|Junior & Intermediate (4 to 8)||1 teacher for every 23.84 students||Average class size across a board must be no higher than 24.5. There are no caps, and the regulations allow for some flexibility in the maximum average. For 2018/19 the maximum averages range from a low of 18.5 in Superior Greenstone DSB, to a high of 25.6 in Avon Maitland DSB.|
|Secondary (9 to 12)||1 teacher for every 22 students||Average class sizes across a board must be no higher than 22. There is no cap on secondary class sizes.|
If the formula is changed to increase the number of students per teacher, it will mean fewer teachers and potentially larger class sizes.
Programs outside the “core” may also see reductions
In the fall, the province conducted consultations on education funding, and questioned if there may be other ways to provide what it called “non-core programming.” This includes anything from outdoor education (funded through the Learning Opportunities Grant) to programs funded through a category called Education Programs – Other (EPO).
EPO includes things like:
- Mental health workers in schools
- Community use of schools
- Experiential learning to support the Highly Skilled Workforce Strategy
- The renewed math strategy
- The Equity Action Plan
- Supporting special education assessments
- Part of the funding for the Specialist High Skills Major
- And more
Cuts have already been announced to some of the programs that fall under EPO, but more may be coming when the funding details are announced.