Schools across Ontario have collectively raised $592.6 million through extra fees levied on students, corporate donations, vending machines and other fundraising last year, says a report issued by a parent-run organization.
The report, released by the group People For Education Tuesday morning, audited school boards' records over the last year.
It found that not all schools benefit from a windfall of parent and corporate dollars — the amount of money raised by schools ranged from a low of $0 to a maximum of $200,000.
That kind of disparity risks creating a two-tier education system, said the report.
"For some parents, the combination of fees and the pressure to participate in fundraising can be experienced as a form of exclusion or built-in inequity," the report said.
The Toronto District School Board raised $44 million in fees over the last year, according to the report. That translates to about $180 per student.
The report notes that more than half of school councils surveyed are raising funds for basics like computers and classroom supplies. Fifteen per cent of schools, meanwhile, were raising money to fund capital expenditures like renovations or building upgrades.
The report calls for the province to specify exactly what should be available to students in schools without extra charges. The Ministry of Education promised in 2005 to develop a policy to govern fundraising throughout schools in Ontario. But the ministry is still in consultations over the policy, and one is not likely to be drafted for another two years, said the report.