Friday, March 27, 2009

Ontario grants for student needs

The details were released today on the Ontario Grants for Student Needs, the provincial grants that fund K-12 education in the province. Total grants are up $592 million across the province's 72 publicly funded school boards, which is a 3.1 per cent increase over 2008-09. This compares to the increases outlined in Thursday's post revealed in the provincial budget documents.
Highlights of the ministry memo on funding released Friday show more money being added to the expected areas relating to various provincial framework agreements and multi-year commitments that have been previously announced.
There are several constraints in the funding, some of which take effect in the 2009-10 school year and some of which won't come into effect until the 2010-11 school year. These include responding to the declining enrolment working group's recommendations on the declining enrolment adjustment grant, where top-up amounts are being scaled back a few percentage points in order to push boards to address vacant space issues promptly over a two-year period instead of the former three-year grace period. These adjustments do not apply to schools receiving funding due to their rural or remote nature, which means the top-up funding remains in place in those schools located far enough away from the next closest facility.
Scanning the board-by-board tables that were also released Friday, Education Reporter was only able to find one board (see image) where the total GSN is actually going to decrease in 2009-10 compared to the amount funded in the current year. You'll have to click on the image above to get something you can actually read clearly. It's also page 51 of the PDF linked above.
Given however, the salary increases being funded through this release of grants and some of the other increased lines for transportation, operations, etc. There are at least another dozen Northern Ontario boards where the increases are so small (IE: under $100,000 in some cases) that those boards will be forced to trim expenses elsewhere in order to balance their 2009-10 budgets. This is the impact of declining enrolment finally taking effect after four or five successive years of pouring dollars into the K-12 sector in Ontario.
Boards need to finalize their 2009-10 budgets by June 30-- which means, hopefully, there will be media coverage of the challenges being faced by these boards highlighting how these boards deal with their GSN allotment as compared to their funding needs. This media coverage will be linked on these pages as Education Reporter becomes aware of them.