School funding formula said unfair, not going toward important needs

April 8, 2015   ·   0 Comments

The financial support schools have been receiving from the provincial government is being criticized as inadequate and misdirected by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario.

The union says closing schools across Ontario is casting a huge burden on students and schools, particularly when utilization numbers are flawed.

Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario, says taking kids out of their local schools, “which are the hearts of their communities, hurts student well-being. Forcing kids in rural communities to endure ever longer bus rides because of school closures will impact student achievement. The government is making these short-sighted decisions based on deeply flawed utilization numbers, and Ontario’s students deserve better”

The Ministry of Education brochure on Grants for Student Needs states that they have developed a “new allocation method for the School Foundation Grant, better understanding student transportation delivery, and focus on more up to data geographic data providing funding for those staff needed, including principals, office support staff.”

Still, the issue of school space causes concern due to the “deeply flawed formula” and ““not accounting for a number of uses of key space.”. The Elementary Teachers Federation (ETFO) is also concerned about the issue of school closures. “The government’s incentive funding to consolidate schools would have a negative effect on driving elementary schools and students into high school settings,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond.  “We know that when this happens, younger students don’t get the access they need to shared facilities. They are also exposed to environments that are not age appropriate.” He says ETFO is also concerned that class sizes aren’t adjusted to meet the number of students with specialized needs.

The ministry said that in 2014–15, after extensive consultations with stakeholder representatives, including the Special Education Funding Working Group, “the Ministry began the four-year implementation of a new High Needs Amount (HNA) funding method. … This change to the HNA Allocation will provide greater fairness and equity, as the new allocation will better reflect the variation among boards with respect to students with special education needs and boards’ abilities to meet those needs.”

The funding formula still has a big impact on government decisions regarding school funding. The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives(CCPA) recently reported on the funding issues. One of the important issues the CCPA addressed is that the numbers show that the original funding goal put in place in 1997 was supposed to “level down”. By 2003-2004, plus extra funding, it increased roughly $400 per student, to $9800. The problem is that the funds were meant for other purposes, the “underlying funding shortfalls” that has persisted until 2004-2005.” Excluding this, the spending is $980 million lower.

From the perspective of the The Ministry of Education, using a new strategy, SBEM (School Board Efficiencies and Modernization) they state that they will modernize by “focusing on resources and facilities to support students, while maintaining support for schools that need it most, and measures to update and modernize the funding formula.”

These implementations are made in hopes that school boards will focus on resources in supporting students, then provide extra school space to address the education needs of students.

The Education of Grants for Students Needs has eliminated Base Top Up Funding, which is supporting “operating and maintenance of facilities where enrolment is less than capacity” but still reinvest, protect those isolated, and “savings will be reinvested in operating and renewal cost benchmarks that support students in all schools” “This reinvestment is intended to redirect funding from underutilized space to serve pupils in all schools across the province.”

CUPE Ontario says it will keep up its effort to stop school closures until the funding formula is properly assessed and there is full public consultation.

Terri Preston, chair of CUPE Ontario’s school board workers Coordinating Committee, says “Investing in public education builds a better Ontario for future generations”. Our members are standing up- so students can succeed and we can maintain these valuable public assets in our communities.”

For more information, visit the education ministry’s website at and the CUPE website


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