Equitable financing sought for Ontario schoool extracurricular activities

By 
  • April 6, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO  - The Ontario Student Trustees’ Association says students don’t have equal access to after-school activities in the province.

In a January 2009 report called “Equitable Education? The Cost of Extra-curriculars in Ontario’s Schools,” the association recommended that the provincial government and school boards adopt a standardized fee system in Ontario and address the lack of access to after-school activities by students who can’t afford to participate.

“A substantial part of education is neither free nor equitable. The rich receive the benefit of experience while the poor receive a no-frills education; the wealthy can afford to participate in extracurricular activities while the poor cannot,” the report said.
Activity fees cover student participation in sports teams, drama productions, social events and club membership.

The report also pointed to the wide range of fees in Ontario high schools, with about 77 per cent charging up to $500. According to the association, student activity fees have risen by more than 50 per cent since 2001. In an average-sized board, fees can range from $10 to $55, it added.

But the report also highlighted the efforts of some school boards, including the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, in helping students who can’t afford the fees.

Darlene Canton of the Toronto Association of Parents in Catholic Education said there has been a “constant nickel-and-dime request” from some school boards to pay for after-school activities. For instance, parents and students have been involved in bake sales and other fundraising events to help cover the cost of these activities.

Canton said activity fees for her two children who attend Toronto Catholic high schools total about $200 per year. But there are additional expenses for parents such as fees for lockers, student agendas, yearbooks and field trips, in addition to private music lessons or sports activities.

“For some parents, it can become a concern regarding affordability,” Canton said, adding that public education “should be equal for everyone.”

The parents’ association also said in a statement it is concerned there are many students in the education system “who are hanging on by a thread, with respect to their level of engagement,” with after-school activities being the only means by which they remain engaged in school.

Murielle Boudreau, chair of the Greater Toronto Catholic Parent Network, said after-school activities serve an important purpose.

And especially during this economic climate, it would be a “wise move” to fund extra-curricular activities “because kids are going to need it even more now.”

“If you want kids out of trouble, (you should) keep them busy, supported, and fund programs well. You’ll see results,” she said.

Education ministry spokesperson Patricia MacNeil said there is already adequate funding available to school boards for arts, music, physical and outdoor education. She said the ministry’s promotion of community hubs recognizes how schools are “more than just classrooms.”

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