Ontario Budget 2023: Doug Ford Pulled a Sneaky Move to Quietly Cut Education
Doug Ford’s 2023 budget is hiding a $47 million cut to education
Despite the prospects of layoffs across Ontario’s school system, Doug Ford’s 2023 budget has no additional funds earmarked for education, leaving the province’s education system tens of millions of dollars in the hole.
Adjusting for changes to last year’s interim expenses, Ontario’s 2023 budget notes that the education system saw a $47 million spending cut due to a reduction in “non-government revenue”:
“Education Sector expense is projected to be $47 million lower, primarily due to school boards experiencing lower than forecasted non‐government revenue and implementation timing of the Canada‐wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement, partially offset by increased school board spending, such as higher fuel costs for student transportation.”
According to the official numbers presented in the Ford government’s 2023 budget, education spending would appear as though it is set to rise from $32.4 billion to $34.7 billion.
While this total spending increase appears to work out to $2.3 billion, the fine print explains that this new spending money is not going to primary and secondary education – it was previously earmarked for the joint federal-provincial childcare program.
According to Ontario’s Financial Accountability Office, under the joint program:
“The Ministry of Education plans to spend $1.5 billion in 2022-23 and $2.3 billion in 2023-24 under the Agreement. This includes $1.1 billion in 2022-23 and $1.6 billion in 2023-24 to reduce child care fees. The remaining planned spending in 2022-23 and 2023-24 of $353 million and $694 million, respectively, is for wage enhancements, professional development, growth in spaces, start-up grants and administrative costs.”
All told, it works out to a $0 increase for 2023-24 and a $47 million nominal cut.
On top of failing to keep up with inflation, Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation President Karen Littlewood says the budget will hurt students.
“When you add in the federal money it’s absolutely a cut and the students of the province will be shortchanged,” Littlewood told PressProgress.
Additionally, the Ontario Public School Board Association noted that, despite a $17 billion school repair backlog, the budget only funds education repairs at $2.8 billion and just $15 billion over the next decade.
Earlier this month, the Toronto District School Board – the largest school board in Canada – warned of a round of program cuts if the province does not provide $70 million to recoup its COVID-19 costs.
“The boards used their reserves during covid and are now expected to replenish those reserves and meet their budgets,” Littlewood said. “So we’ve seen program cancellations, bussing cancellations, I’m not sure what the boards are going to do to make ends meet going forward.”
“We have a $9 million shortfall at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, it’s really common across the province.”
Last year, PressProgress reported that the Ford government found that the school system experienced a $1.3 billion funding “decrease” due to changes in these revenues – including a drop in bake sales and other “school fundraising” activities during the pandemic.
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