TORONTO--While the commitments to education announced by the McGuinty government represent a real improvement over previous years of cuts, a study released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives concludes that several years of additional funding on the same scale will be required to put elementary and secondary education funding back onto a solid footing.
Are We There Yet? A Progress Report on Education Renewal in Ontario, by economist and CCPA Research Associate Hugh Mackenzie, examines the state of education in Ontario and the impact of the Government's recent spending announcements. The report also provides board-by-board data comparing funding for individual boards and groups of boards and demonstrates how additional government funding would be distributed among school boards.
The study's main findings include:
• The funding increases announced by the McGuinty Government since it was elected have brought a welcome change from nearly a decade of cuts and bad news. The increases in funding for 2004-5 mean that, for the first time, we have started to make real progress in tackling the backlog of unmet needs in elementary and secondary education.
• While the Government has finally recognized cost increases for items other than salaries in its 2004-5 funding, cost increases between 1997 and 2003-3 have not yet been recognized.
• The Government's 2004-5 funding does not address fundamental defects in the Harris-Eves funding formula. The study finds that the allocation for teachers' salaries is $400 million less than it actually costs boards to employ the teachers needed to meet class size requirements. Further, the inadequate funding for school operations in the funding formula that created the crisis in school maintenance in the first place has not been seriously addressed.
• More important for the longer term, the government has not yet challenged the underlying philosophy of the Conservatives' approach to education funding - a philosophy that takes a narrow view of what public elementary and secondary education should be and should provide; a philosophy that leaves schools across the province without librarians, without music or art programming, without adequate physical education instruction, without badly needed support for nutrition and health.
"We believe the Government should re-think the foundation of the current funding formula," Mackenzie states. "Even after two years of substantial funding increases, the system still faces a funding shortfall of nearly $1.5 billion. One size fits all does not work as a basis for funding. Instead, the government should articulate what it believes is necessary for Ontario schools to meet our expectations, and provide the funding that is required.
"If nothing changes, we run the risk of ending up with a 'new' funding formula that is as much out of touch with reality as the one that was scrapped by the Harris Government in 1997."
Are We There Yet? A Progress Report on Education Renewal in Ontario is available on the CCPA web site at http://www.policyalternatives.ca
For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn at 613-563-1341 x306.