Funding changes coming

Our news & views

March 30, 2014

Changes to education funding may mean more school closings, fairer distribution of funding for special education and changes to funding for board administration.

In the fall of 2013, the Ministry of Education consulted with trustees, board directors of education, school board business officials, principals and vice-principals, teacher federations, support staff representatives, parent groups, student trustees, and the Minister’s Advisory Council on Special Education (MACSE) on plans to “modernize” education funding and make it more “efficient.” Click here to read the synopsis of what they heard.

Funding in the Grants for Student Needs (GSNs) includes many changes based on the Ministry Consultations.

Funding for school boards for 2014-15 is projected to be $22.53 Billion, an increase of about 3.1% over 2013-14. A large proportion of the increase will be used to fund the expansion of Full Day Kindergarten to all schools, and to bring per pupil funding for kindergarten students into the ).

Per-pupil funding in 2014-15 is projected to be $11,424, a 1.4% increase from last year, which is about the rate of inflation.

More funding will be “enveloped” or “sweatered” meaning boards can only spend it on its intended purpose and cannot move it to cover costs in other categories.


  • Contracts for all the education unions expire August 31, 2014.
  • If there are no collective agreements in place in September, then the conditions set out in the 2013/14 memorandum of understanding will continue until a new settlement is reached. This includes a 97 day delay in teachers’ movement up the salary “grid,” (pay increases based on years of service or additional qualifications). In addition, with no new settlement, benefit levels, long-term disability provisions, maternity leave benefits and sick leave plans would stay frozen at 2013/14 levels.
  • There will be no unpaid days off for teachers or staff.
  • Elementary Teachers of Ontario (ETFO) members will receive an automatic 2% increase in the fall, so that they are paid at the same rate as non-ETFO teachers.

 Closing schools

  • Significant changes will encourage boards to close more of their schools that are “under capacity”
  • Currently, the province provides “top up” funding for schools that are less than full (based on a provincial formula that allocates a certain number of square feet per student, and that does not recognize (or fund) space for things like community rooms or music rooms).
  • 23 of Ontario’s 72 boards are under 65% the capacity benchmark set by the province. On the other hand, a number of boards are at over 100% capacity. Click here to see boards’ funding and capacity rates.
  • The Ministry of Education says the top up funding (and other provisions in the funding formula) “discourage boards from using their space more efficiently.
  • Funding changes will include:
    • Reductions in the top up funding
    • A two-tier system for top up funding so that the boards with the most empty space will get lower levels of top up.
    • Funding incentives to encourage boards to combine elementary and secondary schools in the same building.
    • New capital funding – provided on a case-by-case basis – to support “consolidations through new school construction, retrofits, and additions.”
  • The Ministry is also going to conduct a review of the Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) process to make it “more flexible for school boards, while helping to ensure that the community has meaningful input…”  They will consult in the spring and release revised guidelines this summer.
  • Changes may be coming to guidelines about sharing space in school buildings. Currently, boards are required to offer the space to other provincially funded entities when they are building new schools, renovating or have unused space that might be available. But there is no reciprocal requirement for other provincially funded entities. 

School renewal

  • The province will invest more than $1 Billion over the next three years to support capital projects, including renovations to meet accessibility requirements, and school renewal projects.

School board administration

  • Over the next four years, the province will change how funding is allocated for administrative expenses and for board staff including directors, superintendents, and other administration staff. The changes will mean increases to some boards and cuts to others.
  • The province has accepted the recommendations for changes made by an expert group, who recognized that “…while school board administration is often seen as an independent and isolated function of the board, it is in fact an important part of all school board operations – a support for all education initiatives and programs that boards deliver.”  Click here, to read the recommendations for changes to school board funding.

Special education

  • A new funding formula for special education will result in cuts to some boards and increases to others. The new formula will replace the current method for funding supports for students with high needs.
  • The new formula for funding High Needs Amounts is based on a combination of things:
    • The Special Education Statistical Prediction Model (SESPM), which is based on the likelihood that children in the board will be identified with one of the 12 categories within the Ministry’s definitions of exceptionalities. This number will be based on the following demographic factors from 2006 Census data:
      • Occupational structure
      • Median income
      • Parent level of education
      • Percent families below Statistic Canada’s low-income cut-off occupational structure,
      • Percent unemployed
      • Percent Aboriginal families
      • Percent recent immigrants
      • Percent moved in previous year
      • Metropolitan influence zone.
    • Measures of Variability (MOV), which is based on an even more complex formula that includes:
      • The number of students currently receiving special education services
      • Grade 3 and 6 participation and achievement in EQAO assessments by students with special education needs
      • In high school, credit accumulation and participation in Locally Developed and Alternative non-credit courses (K-Courses) by students with special education needs.
      • The number of schools in a board that are considered “remote and rural” and thus have higher costs for delivering special education
      • The proportion of First Nations, Métis and Inuit students in a board as reported on the 2006 Census
    • High Needs Base Amount for Collaboration and Integration, which gives every board funding to “establish and or access high needs services, while also exploring collaborative and integrated approaches to serve their students with special education needs.”

Mental Health

  • Funding for Mental Health Leaders in every board will now be made permanent by including the funding in the Learning Opportunities Grant. This funding will be “sweatered” meaning it can only be spent on Mental Health Leaders.

Transportation and school operations

  • Funding for busing will increase by 2%
  • Funding for electricity will increase by 7.5%
  • Funding for new construction will increase by 4%
  • The funding for school renewal will now be “sweatered” so that boards may not use it for school operations.

Click here to download a copy of this summary