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Flexible and responsive education funding needed for Ontario school boards

1/21/2021

School boards remain committed to student achievement and well-being amid the extraordinary and unexpected impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

Toronto, January 21, 2021 – This school year has been like no other, with school boards’ facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, and with financial decisions being made based on many unknowns. In this environment, the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) has submitted its recommendations in response to the Ministry of Education’s call for feedback on the government’s Grants for Student Needs (GSN) education funding plans for 2021-2022.

“Our recommendations are the result of in-depth consultations with our member school boards, and they reflect the priorities of families and students from across the province,” said OPSBA President Cathy Abraham. “Our message to the ministry is clear – boards need sufficient resources and local flexibility to implement programs that will close learning gaps and provide opportunities to promote student achievement and well-being. The importance of public education has never been more evident. Now, more than ever, students must be provided with a range of options that will allow them to pursue their interests and strengths.”

Education continues to be the second-largest funding line in the Ontario budget. OPSBA has regularly acknowledged the extra funding that has been given to boards for the safe return to school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. With that said, many boards still continue to face funding pressures that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and are anxious for the release of the second half of federal funding as soon as possible to deal with ongoing expenses.

Communities and school boards have their own local contexts that must be considered to maximize student outcomes. Funding flexibility is key when trying to ensure that all students are given every opportunity to succeed. School boards will soon begin making decisions for the next year, which may include both in school and remote learning. School boards need to continue to be part of the discussion about return to school planning.

The funding priorities identified by school boards include investments in the following areas (full details can be found in the backgrounder linked below):

COVID-19 Pandemic-Related Funding Pressures
Although there have been funding announcements throughout the year, many school boards have (as directed by the Ministry of Education) used their reserve funds for pandemic-related expenses. These boards are seeking full reimbursement of any reserve funds used, as these were earmarked for specific future projects.

Indigenous Education and Anti-Racism Initiatives
Supporting and strengthening Indigenous education and anti-racism and anti-oppression initiatives in the public education system continues to be a priority for OPSBA. Systemic racism and bias is a long-standing issue in our society, and the time for collective and coordinated strategic action is overdue.

Special Education
This continues to be an underfunded area, given the prevalence and complexity of student needs. The need is even more significant where community services and supports are not readily available or easily accessible and have been exacerbated during COVID-19.

Children and Youth Mental Health
With data indicating that approximately one in five children and youth in Ontario have a mental health challenge, early investments in school-based mental health and addictions services will yield long-term benefits for the health care system and the wellness of students and future generations.

Capital and Facilities
Schools need to be built and maintained to accommodate future population and program growth to support student achievement and well-being. Some school boards continue to struggle with renewal costs for their aging schools and are unable to enhance their facilities to meet the needs of students as they learn and grow.

Key Links

For more information, please contact:

Shane Gonsalves
sgonsalves@opsba.org
Managing Director, Government Relations and Public Affairs

T.J. Goertz
tgoertz@opsba.org
Senior Communications and Policy Officer

The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association represents English public district school boards and public school authorities across Ontario, which together serve more than 1.3 million public elementary and secondary students. The Association advocates on behalf of the best interests and needs of the public school system in Ontario. OPSBA is seen as the credible voice of public education in Ontario and is routinely called on by the provincial government for input and advice on legislation and the impact of government policy directions.

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