What Does Ontario's Education Funding Model Need to Include?
Ministry of Education and Training
September 19, 1996
Meeting Students' Needs: What Does Ontario's Education Funding Model
Need to Include?
The need for fairness to all Ontario students demands that we re-examine how
we allocate and spend the funds available for education. Parents must be assured
that, no matter where they live in Ontario, their children have the same
opportunity to excel. The education of all students must benefit from Ontario's
This means that the funds available for students must be distributed as
fairly as possible. We must direct as many dollars as possible to the student
and the classroom. We need better measurement of how well resources are being
A fair funding model must also be responsive to the variety of challenges
facing communities. Differences in language, geography, population, and social
and economic conditions are significant factors affecting the cost of delivering
education. Moreover, the current model is complex and difficult to understand,
with 34 different grants. There are also differences in the amount of money
communities are able to raise through local property tax.
For example, it is estimated that in 1995 per pupil spending by school
boards* varied from a high of more than $7,500 to a low of less than $5,000.
The estimated average spending on each pupil for Ontario as a whole was less
than $5,900. (* These figures do not include a number of small school boards in
Northern Ontario that have very high costs because of the unique circumstances
This year, the people of Ontario will spend more than $13 billion on
elementary and secondary education. This money pays for the education of 1.9
million students enrolled in 5,200 schools, learning under the direction of
about 120,000 teachers.
- outlines problems in the current education funding system;
- proposes a set of principles for a new model;
- describes the basic features of the model now being developed; and
- presents several issues for discussion.
Its purpose is to gather information that will help the Ontario government
construct a funding model that will be fair to everyone, direct resources to the
classroom, and make it easier to see how education funds are spent. This
reflects the government's commitment to open and better government.
We need your assistance in identifying the significant features in your
community that need to be recognized in a provincial funding model. Your views
are important to us as we develop a new, more flexible model that will meet the
needs of today's students.
At the end of this paper you will find several questions on which we would
like your comments. Responses can be mailed to: Meeting Students' Needs,
Ministry of Education and Training, 24th Floor, Mowat Block, 900 Bay Street,
Toronto ON M7A 1L2 or faxed to: (416) 325-6370. Responses can
also be e-mailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
respond by October 7, 1996.
2. Current Problems with Education Funding
A number of problems with the current funding model are a result of its
heavy reliance on the local property tax as a source of revenue. The government
has recently established an education subpanel of the Who Does What initiative
to review the way funds are raised for education in the province. This
paper will consider how the funds are distributed and spent.
The funding model that Ontario has been using has several weaknesses related
to how funds are distributed and spent:
- Spending per student varies widely throughout the province
variations that cannot be completely explained by geographic, social, or
- The funding model does not adequately recognize the true costs of
delivering education programs and services.
- The funding model has become overly complex and difficult to understand
and administer there are more than thirty special grants, each with its
own eligibility rules.
- The province has difficulty directing more education spending to the
school and classroom, where it counts.
- The funding model does not clarify the funding decisions for which the
province is responsible and those for which the local level is responsible.
- Reporting on education spending is inadequate, thus weakening
accountability and raising taxpayer concerns about the costs of education.
3. Principles of Education Funding
The new funding model must be based on a set of principles. We are
proposing the following:
- There are no second-class students in Ontario.
- The focus of funding is the student in the classroom.
- The funding model must be based on a realistic, fair, and reasonable idea
of what it costs to provide high quality education.
- The model must provide accountability to the government and the taxpayer.
- The model must promote efficient and effective use of education dollars.
- The model must share available resources fairly and recognize the limits
- The model must be streamlined so that it is simpler to administer and
easier to understand.
- The model must recognize the significant differences among communities,
schools and students and address these differences to ensure that excellence in
education programming can be consistently attained.
4. Focusing Funding on the Student and the Classroom
A standard or common grant called the "foundation grant" will be
provided for each student, based on the resources needed to offer consistent,
high quality education. Although a per pupil grant currently exists, over time
it has been altered and adjusted to the point that no one can describe what it
is intended to fund.
The new grant will be calculated by identifying funding for a student's
teachers, instructional supplies, and computers, and an allocation for the
operation and administration of the school. The components of classroom
instruction will thus become clearer. We will be able to tell how much it costs
to teach a student and how much to provide administrative support.
The foundation grant will be made on a per-pupil basis, and will cover the
items found in the budget of most schools. It will also provide support for
the education of students with special needs.
Through information now being collected from school boards, the province
will be better able to determine a figure that reflects the cost of offering a
good education to a typical student in an Ontario school. This figure must be
derived in such a way that the public and school boards understand what factors
were used in its calculation.
Specific Program Funding
Grants beyond the foundation grant have been given for special programs such
as junior kindergarten and full day senior kindergarten, adult and continuing
education, pupils eligible for placement in a provincial facility for deaf
and/or blind students, pupils in care treatment and correctional facilities
transportation and school board administration and governance. Should these
programs continue to be funded this way? Can this part of the grant structure be
streamlined and delivered in an accountable fashion?
5. Adapting the Model to Meet Local Needs
Providing all students with fair funding lies at the heart of this model.
We know, however, that Ontario schools provide education under a wide variety of
conditions to students with sharply varying needs. These differences can occur
in both urban and rural settings. They may affect both large boards and small.
In addition to the foundation grant, therefore, the funding method will be
designed to recognize special local circumstances. The following briefly
explains how these adjustments for local needs will be made.
Currently the Ministry provides 34 separate grants to address these needs,
each with its own rules and guidelines. Grants are provided for programs such as
instruction in English or French as second languages for immigrant children
whose first language is neither English nor French; providing education in
French to Francophone students; extended and immersion French programs;
instruction in a native language as second language; computers; and low class
sizes in Grades 1 and 2. Grants are also provided to assist small schools;
schools in remote areas; and schools in areas suffering from poor social or
We want fewer, broader categories that would offer greater flexibility and
more straightforward accountability. We are interested in how you think such
categories might be defined and what kinds of things they should support.
A good education funding model requires a framework to ensure
accountability. Such a framework would inform students, parents, school
councils, school boards, taxpayers, and government about how education dollars
are allocated and spent. It would help ensure that education funds are focussed
on the student and the classroom, not on administration and bureaucracy.
Current accountability measures tend to cover certain specific grants, and
the information is generally shared by government and school boards. Another
approach is to develop a comprehensive method of reporting that allows
comparison of how different boards spend education funds.
An example of this approach is presented on page 6 for your comment. We
would like to know whether you would find it useful if information were gathered
for every board and published annually, with average provincial data and
averages for communities of a similar size.
Ontario's new education funding model will focus on directing as many
dollars as possible to the student and the classroom while being more responsive
to communities throughout the province. The new model will also be more
accountable, efficient and easier to administer.
Your input can help ensure that the new model will help different
communities meet the different challenges they face in providing high quality