Private school funding just the tip of the iceberg in Ontario public education cuts

Ontario Alternative Budget Technical Paper
June 14, 2001

"The Ontario Government's plan to spend $300 million on a tax credit for private schooling is just a fraction of the total of $2.3 billion cut from public education since Mike Harris was elected," the author of a new CCPA study says.

The study, Manufactured Crisis - A Report Card on Ontario's 'Student Focused Funding' Formula, analyzes data provided by the Ministry of Education on the funding of school boards in Ontario. It was written by Hugh Mackenzie, Co-Chair of the Ontario Alternative Budget Working Group and a Senior Research Associate of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The study's major findings:

  • Contrary to the government's claim that it has increased funding per student since it was elected, funding on a real per-student basis has actually been reduced by nearly $2.3 billion since 1995.
  • Contrary to the government's claim that its formula was merely redressing inequities in the previous funding system, the data show clearly that the formula is simply a disguise for significant cuts in resources allocated to education. The total gain for previously under-resourced boards - Catholic, Northern and French language - is less than $88 million since 1997; the total loss for other boards, since 1997, is just over $1 billion.
  • Despite the government's claims to the contrary, the real story of the funding formula is an attack on the financial base for public school boards in large urban areas in southern Ontario - a cut of more than $921 million in real per-student terms since 1997.

The paper is the first board-by-board analysis of the impact of Ontario's education funding formula yet released. It highlights the budgetary facts that lie behind the chaos that is sweeping the public education system in the province.

"When the Harris Government was first elected, its first Minister of Education made headlines when he talked about the need to manufacture a crisis in education," Mackenzie noted. "Over the past six years, Ontarians have seen all too clearly just how far the Harrisites were prepared to go. What wasn't as clear was why the crisis was being created. The private school tax credit provides the answer. Public education is being undermined to pave the way for official two-tier education in Ontario."