School's out!

Ontario gov't continues to shortchange Rozanski, public schools
May 22, 2003

TORONTO--The December 2002 release of the Rozanski Report seemed to promise significant change in the Province's approach to funding elementary and secondary education in Ontario. But after an encouraging start--announcements of new funding totalling $610 million within 72 hours of the release of the report--the Government's response turned into an exercise in political spin, explains a new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The study, "Telling tales out of school: How the Ontario Government is(n't) funding education," provides a board-by-board and grant-by-grant analysis of the Government's funding announcement for 2003-4 and shows a shortfall of $1.4 billion compared with the amount that would be required for full implementation of the Rozanski recommendations in 2003-4.

According to author Hugh Mackenzie, if Rozanski's benchmark updates were phased in over three years, as was suggested, the analysis shows 2003-4 funding $666 million short of what would be required in the first year of a 3-year implementation plan. "This means the Government's plan to 'implement' Rozanski leaves funding further behind costs at the end of its three years of "phase-in" than it was when Rozanski was appointed, " explains Mackenzie.

In its detailed analysis of the individual grants that make up the funding formula, the study reveals that, far from implementing Rozanski's recommendations, the Government has rejected the central message in Rozanski's report --that a centrally determined funding formula cannot work if the benchmarks are not adjusted to keep pace with costs.

Funding shortfalls relative to Rozanski average $712 per student in total, $340 per student in the first year of a three-year phase-in.

The summary of individual board shortfalls from Rozanski's recommended funding levels highlights the overall impact on board finances of the Government's failure to deliver, and goes a long way towards explaining why the system has still not recovered from the cuts of the Harris-Eves era.

The report notes that the two hardest-hit boards in Ontario are also two of the three boards that have been taken over by the Ministry of Education.

"The three school boards--Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto--that have been most aggressively critical of the Government over its approach to elementary and secondary education funding have all been taken over by the Provincial Government," concludes Mackenzie.

"Our standards of service continue to erode as years of underfunding take their toll--and our children are the losers."