Financial Savings: Restructuring Education in Ontario Using the British Columbia Model
Almost one-fifth (18.7 percent) of Ontario’s budget is spent on JK-12 education. With recurring deficits—the most recent ($11.3 billion) amounting to almost half the entire public JK-12 budget ($23.8 billion in 2013/14)—and provincial net debt of $269.3 billion, many analysts are calling for reform.
Public education spending in Ontario from 2001/02 to 2010/11 increased by 60.8 percent (up to $24.5 billion from $15.2 billion), while public school enrolment decreased by 5.1 percent (down to 2.05 million from 2.16 million). Thus, Ontario’s per-pupil public education spending has jumped by 69.5 percent (to $11,946 from $7,047).
Furthermore, while Canada’s international rankings (according to OECD’s PISA) are declining for student performance scores in math, reading, and science, British Columbia’s mean scores are higher than Ontario’s in all core subjects. Additionally, from 2001/02 to 2010/11, British Columbia’s spending on public education increased by less than half of Ontario’s. Thus, British Columbia’s model for education stands out as an alternative worth consideration.
As British Columbia’s structure and funding of public and independent education are different from Ontario’s, this paper addresses whether Ontario’s adoption of the British Columbia model would result in net savings. In the new model, Ontario’s fully funded public schools would include only Anglophone and Francophone schools; all Roman Catholic schools would operate as independent schools. Independent schools would receive funding, as in British Columbia, dependent on group classification. Group 1 schools receive 50 percent of the local board per-pupil operating grant and group 2 schools receive 35 percent.
Calculations for four scenarios, based on different levels of enrolment, resulted in annual nets savings from $849.1 million to $1.873 billion. The relative fiscal effect would be saving between 7.5 and 16.6 percent of Ontario’s 2013/14 deficit.