Ontario slightly increases school board funding, but per-student amount drops

Premier Doug Ford's government is slightly increasing overall funding to Ontario school boards, but rising enrolment means the amount boards will get per student is dropping.

Ford government pledges $24.66B in overall funding for upcoming school year

A female teacher stands at the front of a classroom as several students seated at their desks raise their hand.
The provincial government laid out its funding plans for Ontario school boards on Friday. The changes mean boards will get $12,246 per pupil, down $54 per pupil from what they got in this school year. (Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

Premier Doug Ford's government is slightly increasing overall funding to Ontario school boards, but rising enrolment means the amount boards will get per student will drop.

The province announced the 2019-2020 school board funding on Friday, and it shows that boards will get $12,246 per pupil, versus the $12,300 they got in this school year.

Overall funding will be $24.66 billion, up slightly from $24.53 billion this year.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson is also telling boards that with a $1.6-billion attrition protection fund, "it is expected" they will not lay off teachers because of higher class sizes and e-learning changes.

If a school board has 10 fewer retirements than expected, for example, it could draw on the fund to avoid laying off 10 teachers.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson revealed the details about the Progressive Conservative government's plans for the public education system last month. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Ontario's Progressive Conservatives announced a series of education reforms last month. The changes include increased class sizes for intermediate and secondary grades, as well as new math and sex-ed curricula and mandatory e-learning modules. 

The average class size requirement for Grades 9 to 12 will be adjusted from 22 to 28. Meanwhile, the average class sizes for intermediate Grades 4 to 8 will will increase to 24.5, up slightly from 23.84.

The decision to increase some class sizes has drawn sharp criticism from some educators, as well as from unions, some parents and politicians.

School boards across the province have said that will mean thousands of teaching jobs are lost, and some have even been issuing surplus notices to teachers, prompting worries that those people will be laid off.

Thompson has vowed that no teacher will "involuntarily" lose their job when teachers' and education workers' contracts expire at the end of August. But a provincial memo, obtained by CBC Toronto earlier this month, laid out plans to cut 1,558 full-time teachers in Ontario in the 2019-2020 school year.

The Toronto District School Board has estimated it will need to fire 216 elementary teachers and 800 high school teachers to accommodate the changes. Further, more than 360 teachers with the Peel District School Board have already received word they will no longer have permanent positions come September. Over 150 more teachers in neighbouring Halton Region have learned they face a similar fate. 

A large crowd gathered at Queen's Park to protest against the province's education changes earlier this month. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) aired concerns on Friday that the new funding infusion doesn't go far enough.

"This money, in fact, is a smoking gun," said TCDSB Chair Maria Rizzo.

"It points to exactly what this government is trying to do, which is to reduce the number of courses that are offered to Ontario students by eliminating a quarter of Ontario's high school teaching positions."

Concerns mount over classroom support

Rizzo added the funding boost won't stop 25 per cent of high school teachers from being "ripped" from the system and stated it's "nothing different" from what the Ford government previously announced, which will continue to have sweeping impacts on the classroom.

"It will still result in overcrowded classrooms and it will still result in students not having access to the choice of programs that they currently have. So there's actually nothing new," Rizzo told CBC Toronto. 

In Thunder Bay, Ont., NDP Leader Andrea Horwath condemned the plan, saying it harms Ontario students and teachers.

"The education system is not going to provide the kinds of supports and opportunities and choices that students need in order to succeed," she told reporters. 

"We've seen too many kids stacked into classrooms that are of different grade levels and that are of different capacities, and we're going to see that become much, much worse." 

With files from Radio-Canada's Mathieu Simard and The Canadian Press