Letter to the Editor re Ontario should ensure benefits of fundraising are shared with kids in poor schools

The letter below was in response to an April 13, 2015 editorial in the Toronto Star

Re: Ontario should ensure benefits of fundraising are shared with kids in poor schools


Dear Editors,

In your editorial you opine that “Ontario should set up a system that shares the fundraising windfall enjoyed by affluent public schools and brings more extracurricular activities to poor neighbourhoods.”

We already have a system for sharing funds: taxes. The fact that any parent group has to fundraise to fix playground equipment or otherwise improve their child’s school is clear evidence that the tax dollars raised for education are insufficient and/or ineffectively allocated. If insufficient, the answer is not to move to a form of privatization by looking to wealthy parents to share in their fundraising windfall, but to use the taxation system to adjust revenues. If ineffective then we should be looking at the tool used to allocate the dollars to elementary and secondary schools: Ontario’s education funding formula.

Economist Hugh Mackenzie, who has been tracking Ontario’s education funding formula since it was first implemented by former Premier Mike Harris in the late 1990s reported in 2009 that “between 1998 and 2009, when you tally the additional costs to schools of inflation and provincial … initiatives, net funding is down across the province by $450 per student per year.”

In his 2015 report on the same funding formula now being implemented by Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals, Mackenzie says that while overall funding by the Liberals may have increased by up to $30 million, its newly introduced programs like full-day kindergarden are not fully funded, forcing boards to implement such programs by borrowing money from other budget lines.

Mackenzie argues that the education funding formula “was designed not to support students but to force school boards to cut back on programs. Key features of a modern education system generate no funding at all; others are funded at less than their cost” and that Ontario’s education funding formula “is out of touch with modern educational realities.” We concur.

In 2002 the Conservative government commissioned the Education Equality Task Force. Chaired by Mordecai Rozanski the task force conducted an indepth review of the province’s funding formula. Among the 33 recommendations contained in the resulting report was that the education funding formula be reviewed in full every five years to ensure it meets student needs. And that was the last time the formula was reviewed in spite of repeated commitments for a review from Wynne when she served as Ontario’s education minister.

If the Star wants to advocate for equity of access to public education, then it should be looking not at how parents can fill the holes created by Ontario’s ineffective, inefficient and outdated funding formula, but rather at how schools are funded.

Leslie Wolfe, Vice President, OSSTF Toronto Teachers’ Bargaining Unit, Toronto