Ontario schools are so strapped for cash they have to fundraise for essentials, says a report.
The study released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives raises concerns that children who go to schools in poorer neighbourhoods, where parents may not be able to raise funds at the same level as in richer neighbourhoods, may be getting a second-class education.
According to the report, programs are being squeezed all across the province and schools either have to drop programs or find other ways to pay for them.
One example, is the swimming pool at Toronto's Monarch Park Collegiate Institute.
The pool used to be used every day as part of the school's physical education program, as well as for physiotherapy for students with physical disabilities.
Now, without the funds to keep it operating, it sits empty and unused.
Hugh Mackenzie, who wrote the report, says school boards are trying to keep programs running, but have few options.
"The data shows really clearly that school boards are starting to rely more and more on school-based funding. Partly it's fundraising by parents, but it's also the revenue from pop machines and that sort of thing," he said.
Mackenzie said the money raised by selling pop and chips is spent on essentials such as library books and computers. "We're not talking about trips to Italy.… We're talking about things that are part of a well-rounded educational program," he said.
Ontario Education Minister Kathleen Wynne takes issue with the report.
Although she said "there has been an increase in the amount of fundraising.… we've also put money into the basics. So when I look at the kinds of things that parents are fundraising for, a lot of them are discretionary."
But Mackenzie said the funding shortfall in Ontario's schools is a problem that needs immediate attention and that the province's funding formula — how much it pays per student — "needs an overhaul."