In 1997, Ontario introduced a provincial funding formula for education, with the goal of making education funding more equitable across the province. Many adjustments have been made to the formula since 1997, but the basic structure remains the same.
How education is funded in Ontario
Per pupil funding
Much of education funding is tied to enrolment.
Funding for classroom teachers, education assistants, textbooks and learning materials, classroom supplies, technology, library and guidance services, and professional and para-professional supports is allocated on a per pupil basis. (e.g. for every 763 elementary students, the province provides funding for one teacher-librarian).
Funding to heat, light, maintain and repair schools also depends, for the most part, on student numbers. There is funding to maintain 104 square feet per elementary student, 130 square feet per secondary student and 100 square feet per adult education student.
While a proportion of boards’ funding is based on numbers of students, there are other grants (Special Education, English or French language support, Transportation, Declining Enrolment, Learning Opportunities etc.) added to the “per pupil” base .
Per pupil funding is not meant to be equal, as different boards have different needs. But it is meant to provide equal educational opportunities for all students.
Where are the funding decisions made?
The province provides funding to school boards based on a number of factors, including the number of students in a board, the number of schools, the percentage of high needs special education students, the number of students who have either English or French as their second language, and a board’s unique geographical needs (a high number of small schools, very far apart, for example).
Most funding can be moved from one category to another, which means that many funding decisions are made at the board level. There are a few exceptions, where funding may not be moved. The province refers to this funding as “enveloped”. Funding for special education, for student achievement in the Learning Opportunities Grant, and for capital expenditures, is enveloped and cannot be spent for other purposes.
The Ministry of Education announces revisions to education funding and the amounts that school boards will receive in the spring of each year.
The school board
School boards make decisions about individual school budgets, and determine criteria for things like the number of students a school must have in order to get teacher-librarians, vice-principals, or full-time principals. Boards distribute funding for teachers depending on the number of students and, in some cases, depending on the number of students who might struggle to succeed – either because of socio-economic or ethno-racial factors, or because they have special education needs. Boards also decide which schools should stay open and which should close, and how many custodians, secretaries, and educational assistants each school will get.
Principals receive a budget for the school from the school board. They make decisions about school maintenance and repairs within that budget, and about the distribution of teachers and class sizes (within Ministry of Education criteria). They decide how to allocate educational assistants, and whether their school can have staff such as a teacher-librarian, a music teacher or department heads.
Principals also make decisions on fees and, with the school council, decide where fundraised money will be spent.
For more information on education funding, visit the Ministry’s education funding page.