The Ontario government delivered its budget for the coming year and forecast expenditures of $204.7B. Of that amount the Ministry of Education estimates it will spend around $35 B. The treasurer also announced new initiatives for building more schools and child care spaces in the years to come.
The Education ministry states that the average provincial per-pupil funding amount is about $13,059 for 2022–23, an increase of $339 or 2.7 per cent from 2021–22.
Once again, the government has rejected providing any level of funding for the approximately 150,000 children who attend independent schools in the province. Ontario’s callous treatment of them is puzzling, disheartening and unfair.
This recent attention on budgets and expenditures marks an appropriate moment to recall the seminal research study by Cardus in 2021 that actually calculated the potential cost to the provincial treasury of funding all students in Ontario’s schools. Not surprisingly, the study was entitled Funding All Students (https://www.cardus.ca/research/education/reports/the-cost-to-fund-students-in-ontario-independent-schools/).
GAJE highlighted the study’s key conclusions at the time it was released. A reiteration of those conclusions is warranted once again in light of the government’s regressive recalcitrance on this very important matter.
The following passages are excerpted from the study’s executive summary:
“This study presents the hypothetical economic costs of funding Ontario’s independent schools, if the province were to fully fund the sector or apply any of the existing partial-funding models in Canada.
“But before conducting the cost analysis, we first establish context and ask: Why should Ontario fund students at independent schools? Simply, as education is a socially formational good, society has a general interest in the education of the next generation of citizens. It is on this basis that taxes are raised to fund any child’s education. But as a morally formational good, parents have a prior and universal right to choose—and deeply personal interest in—their child’s education, and thus these public funds should follow families to their preferred school.
“Accordingly, funding is the norm around the world, as well as in Canada. Globally, 73 percent of countries at least partially fund independent schools—only one OECD country does not. In Canada outside Ontario, 75 percent of independent schools and 84 percent of independent-school students are partially publicly funded. Put differently, Ontario’s lack of funding is anomalous in both a global and Canadian context.
We…conclude that Ontario’s lack of financial support for independent-school students is an unjust and inequitable policy—uncharacteristic of a democratically elected government, especially in an advanced economy—that further disadvantages the already disadvantaged.
“To rectify this eccentric and unjust policy, there are seven funding schemes, all taken from actual practice in Canada, to estimate the cost of funding students in Ontario’s independent schools.
“The first applies full government funding to Ontario’s independent sector. Alternatively, Ontario can partially fund independent schools using a similar approach as any of the other provinces that partially fund this sector—from west to east: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan (two models), Manitoba, and Quebec. (In each of the seven funding schemes, the model recognizes that not all independent schools would qualify for or accept government funding, and this fact is accounted for in the analyses.)….
“Applying [three different] scenarios to each of the seven provincial funding schemes results in twenty-one cost estimations, ranging between $535.2 million and $1.539 billion in net annual cost to Ontario taxpayers.
“[W]ithin the scope of Ontario’s $186 billion annual budget, [Note: The Cardus study was published in 2021] this is around 1/3 to 4/5 of 1 percent (0.3% to 0.8%) of the budget. In other words, any of these funding options is a relatively minimal cost to substantially benefit the families who need it most.”
There is no doubt that provincial government expenditures support necessary, vital programs. No-one would deny this. What the Cardus study proves incontrovertibly however, is that including independent schools under the rubric of public funding is not – in truth – a matter of cost to the treasury. It is, rather, a matter of the will of the government.
That independent schools receive no funding at all from the provincial government is shameful.
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Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
March 31, 2023