Ontario to boost education spending by $186M

Ontario to boost education spending by $186M

The province will spend an additional $186 million on education this year, money that will fund child care spaces as well as the increase in enrolment in Ontario schools this fall.

But the extra dollars won’t stave off the loss of thousands of teaching positions in the coming years, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Thursday.

“Over the next four years, the government plans to hold education funding below the rate of inflation, even if it means school roofs will continue to leak, courses will continue to disappear, and 10,000 teachers will lose jobs,” Horwath said in the legislature.

But Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that the province is spending $1.2 billion more on education for the 2019-20 school year.

And on Thursday in his economic statement, Finance Minister Rod Phillips “reaffirmed that this government is absolutely and firmly committed to the maintenance, defence and improvement of public education in the province of Ontario by a plan to invest an additional $200 million more dollars, an historic investment, the highest levels ever recorded in provincial history to support our young people,” Lecce said.

Horwath, however, said “delaying and repackaging cuts does not make them go away, and it does nothing to reverse the deep cuts to public services and the harm that they’ve already done. The Ford government’s plan will mean fewer courses for students, fewer teachers in schools,” plus a growing backlog of school repairs that now sits at $16.3 billion.

The province has previously pledged an additional $13 billion over the next decade to improve school conditions.

It had announced a plan to boost class sizes from last year’s levels — by about one student in Grades 4 to 8, and from an average of 22 to 28 in high schools over the next four years, which has led to estimates that thousands of teaching positions will be phased out.

However, during current contract negotiations with the high school teachers’ union, Lecce recently announced the province is now seeking an average of 25 students instead.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles — a former Toronto public school board trustee — also noted recent reports of elevated lead levels in some schools and daycares, and said provincial funding “doesn’t even include the cost to remove the lead” from those facilities.

The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association said it is looking forward “to having more discussions with the government about any additional funding for school boards … We believe that strong and equitable education funding is essential for creating the conditions that promote and sustain student achievement and well-being.”

Association president Cathy Abraham said it “will continue to make the case to the government that funding needs to be predictable and sustainable, and should allow for greater local flexibility to meet the unique needs of our members’ communities.”

In its spring budget, the Ford government lowered per-pupil spending to $12,246 for this fall from last year’s $12,300, though overall spending went up $700 million — largely because of the new child-care rebate as well as increased enrolment.

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Last year, the province spent $29.1 billion on elementary and secondary education, which for this fall rose to $29.8 billion — a figure that does not include Thursday’s additional funds.

The $186 million announced in the fall economic statement includes $122 million for child care and $64 million to fully cover the jump in enrolment.

Kristin Rushowy

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