Province's funding formula 'has shortchanged' students, elementary teachers union says

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario has released a new report accusing the provincial government of "shortchanging" students since 1997.

ETFO claims elementary system under funded for 20 years

ETFO president Sam Hammond says Ontario elementary school students are underfunded by the province. (Chris Langengarde/CBC News)

Ontario's largest teachers' union says the way the province funds elementary schools isn't making the grade.

Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO) president Sam Hammond claims while the Liberal government has invested in specific areas, core education funding that disappeared 20 years ago hasn't returned. 

"This is a funding formula that since 1997 has shortchanged elementary students and schools in a profound way," Hammond told a news conference Monday.

"By 1999, the Progressive Conservative government had cut $1.5 billion from education. In today's dollars that is $2.2 billion. While the Liberal government has increased education funding largely for important new programs, there has effectively been no progress in addressing the funding issues built into the original base formula."
The union says the funding formula is not meeting the repair needs of school buildings and has contributed to the closure of schools based in small communities.  ETFO says a lack of funding has forced school boards to make cuts to programs for English as a second language and students at risk.

Economist Hugh Mackenzie, who prepared the ETFO report, says the formula is too focused on numbers.

"For example, there is no evidence that the government gives any consideration at all to how much time kids are spending on buses if schools are consolidated," Mackenzie told reporters Monday.

Economist Hugh MacKenzie says the province's elementary school funding formula focuses too much on the numbers. (Chris Langengarde/CBC News)

ETFO wants to see changes, including boosting special education funding, capping class sizes from Grade 4 to Grade 8 at 22 students, and reviewing the funding formula every five years.  

In a written statement, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter says "the funding formula has undergone significant transformation" since 2003.  

Hunter adds that this year the government is providing an additional $219 million for special education and students.   Earlier this year Hunter, announced support to reduce class sizes in Grades 4-8 to 24.5 or fewer students.

"After inheriting an education system in disrepair ... new reforms have been introduced that better support student achievement and well-being," Hunter wrote.