Premier Doug Ford and Education Minister Lisa Thompson

Educators worried over declining funds

By 
  • May 12, 2019

On average, each Ontario student is going to be worth 0.44 per cent less in terms of funding beginning this September.

The province has released its funding to school boards for 2019-20 and the amount per pupil has gone down slightly, from $12,300 this year to $12,246 next year. Overall education funding increased by 0.53 per cent to $24.66 billion, with much of the extra going to prevent teacher layoffs in boards where not enough teachers retire to meet provincial attrition projections.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson said the cut in funding wouldn’t matter in the classroom.

“The (funding) on a per-pupil basis is essentially an average and it doesn’t reflect the direct impact in the classroom,” Thompson said.

But the Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association expert on finance believes even a slight decrease in Grants for Student Needs could be a big deal.

“The actual funding per pupil is going to be reduced by a slight amount — it’s not a major amount, but it is a slight amount on average — and if you take into account inflationary pressures that occur naturally year-over-year outside even salaries and benefits, then you’re looking at a major impact on school board operations,” said OCSTA policy advisor Dan Duszcyszyn.

Though there’s no doubt it will be a difficult year for budgeting at 29 Catholic school boards across the province, the trustees won’t be able to start sharpening their pencils on next year’s spending until the Ministry of Education releases its technical papers and regulations in mid-May, Duszcyszyn said. Even then, the major factor in budget making will unfold over the summer with province-wide collective bargaining.

“Collective bargaining has to occur,” Duszczyszyn said. “Things as they appear now may not at this point be the same as they are at the end of collective bargaining. But as they stand, there will be a significant amount of money that is currently in the system that won’t be there next year.”

Duszczyszyn pegs the loss at “about $218 million system wide.”

Premier Doug Ford called on teacher unions to immediately begin negotiations.

Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association president Liz Stuart said negotiations could not begin until the government lays its funding cards on the table.

“They are obviously trying to bully teachers and mislead the public,” Stuart said. “Our association wants to reach a fair agreement that will serve our members’ interests and protect quality working and learning conditions, but we can only do this when we have all of the necessary information.”

Unless an agreement can be reached, teachers will be in a legal strike position as of Aug. 30.

“Guys, don’t pull the strike nonsense on the parents and on the poor students,” Ford said. “They think they’re coming after us. They’re hurting parents. They’re hurting students.”

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