The Comment

Where there is smoke… There must be mirrors

TORONTO – It is the cardinal rule of magic acts at carnivals and Friday afternoon Government Press Conferences: things are not always as they appear to be. In politics, wordplay and numbers are nearly always strategically used to distract and lead to a conclusion favourable to the “storyteller’s objective”.

Take, for example, the News Release issued by Minister Lecce “Getting back-to-basics supported by the largest education investment in Ontario history”. If true, and accompanied by pedagogical rigour, one might even be tempted to give the Minister the benefit of the doubt – he has admitted that math scores among Ontario students are among the lowest in the Western world.

First, let us accept that projected total Core Provincial Funding (CPF) of $28,.6 billion is an increase over the adjusted CPF – previously known as the Grants for Student Needs (GSN) – approved for 2023-24. That represents an increase of 2.7%; the total dependent on a projected student enrolment of 2,067,666.

Do not hold your breath. Most of the province’s 72 School Boards are experiencing declining enrolment, according to the Ministry of Education’s own publications (ISBN;978-1-4868-7981-6). Canda’s birth rate is at 1.3 children per woman of child-bearing age when a population sustainability rate without immigration is 2.1. The situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon. A McGill university study indicated the emigration from Canada has reached a total of four million, and, the Government of Canada has begun a policy of cutting back on immigration.

Still, in the past, the Projections for Educational Spending, for comparative purposes, had twenty lines items including one for debt services costs (never below $315.7 million in any given year) and another for student transportation. This year the line for debt services has disappeared – they must be someplace – and the transportation increase, $81 million over 2023-24, probably reflects the carbon tax increase.

In the interest of brevity, the issue was/is back to basics, so for now, we will address that expenditure. Apparently, $34 million is targeted to “support the hiring of 300 school math facilitators” – that is at $113,000 each. Where will they get the teachers? A further $13.5 million goes to funding “board math leads” – $187,550 per school board, probably enough for one supervisor and administrative support staff.

As to “reading supports”, the $68.68 million will be barely enough to hire 600 more specialized educators – at $114.466 each. There are over two million students (2023-24 revised estimates of 2,2051,257) in publicly funded schools. Of these, more than two of every three are in the elementary panel where the need is most pronounced. Is it enough?

There are many factors in the final calculus. The line item for “Planning Provisions” (at $1.4 billion) is a pool of cash for in year “adjustments” not captured by the projections. Another, at $708 million, is set aside for the “School Board Administration Fund”. This pays for the highest paid educational and planning staff. Surprise… the average percentage increase for this group (2%) exceeds the amounts for “back to basics” personnel.

One wonders what the Staff at the Toronto Catholic District School Board did to boost their percentage to 6.6% – three times the provincial average.

More Articles by the Same Author: