Funding model breeds mistrust

It’s still too early to tell what the full effect of the education funding model will be on local district school boards but some are hesitant that things will be as rosy as the Harris government says they will.
Education and Training minister Dave Johnson released the funding model last Wednesday while visiting Pineridge Secondary School in Pickering.
Johnson said the new student-focused approach to funding will increase classroom spending by $583 million by the year 2000 while reducing administrative waste.
“By allocating the funds specifically to ‘classroom’ and ‘non-classroom’ areas, we will ensure that students and teachers in the classroom are the clear priorities,” he said.
“This student-focused approach to funding means that each and every student will have access to a quality education, to acquire the skills and expertise he or she needs to succeed in the 21st century,” he added.
School boards can draw money from the Foundation Grant, Special Education Grant, Language Grant, Early Learning Grant, Learning Opportunities Grant, Geographic and School Authorities Grant (rural and remote boards only), the Teacher Compensation Grant, Adult and Continuing Education Grant, and a Pupil Accommodation Grant (maintenance and capital projects) to meet their financial needs.
The majority of any board’s funding will come from the Foundation Grant, which provides $3,367/pupil for elementary students and $3,953/pupil for secondary ones, which is supposed to cover classroom expenditures only.
Sharon Preston, president of the local Federation of Women Teachers’ Associations of Ontario, said some of the funding methods Johnson has proposed seem “morally unethical,” such as the choice for boards to either have junior kindergarten or enhanced elementary funding.
“It’s like taking money from the little ones,” she said. “It’s appalling to put one group of parents, who want JK, against another, who want enhanced funding.”
Preston also wasn’t impressed with Johnson’s decision to remove funding for core French programs in grades one-three.
“I know for JK, SK, one, two and three, it will impact right in the classroom,” she argued. “At this point in time, I’m waiting to see [what the full impact will be].”
According to ministry projections, the local public and Catholic school boards will receive $800,000 and $500,000 more in funding respectively due to the funding model, based on what the ministry said both boards spent last year.
Wayne McAndrew, director of education for the public board here, said they haven’t had any disagreements with the ministry’s calculations yet though they still had to wait for the full audit from the former Atikokan Board of Education to double-check those figures.
And McAndrew said his board was having troubling understanding what a few of the ministry’s calculations mean.
Chris Howarth, controller of finance for the local Catholic board, is in the same boat, waiting for the figures from the former Fort Frances-Rainy River R.C.S.S. Board to come in.
But Paul Jackson, McAndrew’s counterpart at the Catholic board, said some boards have been able to check the ministry’s numbers and they were drastically off.
“Both Catholic and public boards in Thunder Bay have said the government has understated their expenditures by $8 million,” he said.
Both boards are scheduled to meet with ministry reps Monday in Thunder Bay.
“That’s when a lot of our questions will be put to the ministry,” McAndrew said.