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School boards get marginal funding increase but less per student

Last Updated Apr 26, 2019 at 2:54 pm EDT

Ontario is marginally increasing overall funding to school boards, but rising enrolment means the amount boards will get per student is dropping.

The Progressive Conservative government announced 2019-20 school board funding today, and it shows that boards will get $12,246 per pupil, versus the $12,300 they got in this school year.

Overall funding will be $24.66 billion, up slightly from $24.53 billion this year.

Education Minister Lisa Thompson is also telling boards that with a $1.6 billion attrition protection fund, “it is expected” they will not lay off teachers because of class size and e-learning changes.

Thompson announced last month that high school class sizes will increase from an average of 22 to 28 over four years, average class sizes for Grades 4 to 8 will increase by one student per classroom, and students will need to complete four courses via e-learning.

School boards have said that will mean thousands of teaching jobs are lost, and some boards have been issuing surplus notices to teachers, prompting worries that those people will be laid off.

The Ministry of Education is also creating a task force which will look for efficiencies in how school boards across the province operate.

NDP education critic Marit Stiles said the latest funding amounts to a cut because it fails to keep pace with inflation and lowers the per-student funding.

“These cuts will hurt students, education workers and families,” she said in a statement. “Classrooms will be overcrowded, programs will be cut and students will have even fewer opportunities and resources.”

Several funds that the former Liberal government negotiated as part of education contract extensions – to the tune of $281 million – are being eliminated as contracts expire on Aug. 31.

The local priorities fund put money toward educational assistants to support children in need, at-risk students and adult education.

The amounts for adult day school teachers will be funded elsewhere, but whether that funding as a whole continues depends on the upcoming contract negotiations, which could start as early as Monday, the government said.

Laura Walton with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents 55,000 education workers, said that money funded 2,500 educational assistants, custodians and clerical staff.

“We know that will be an absolute attack on education workers throughout the province,” she said.

Walton said CUPE will fight for the continuation of that funding, but she is not optimistic, given that the government is currently consulting with the public sector on how to constrain compensation costs.

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