On Wednesday, April 12, the Ministry of Education released the 2017–2018 Grants for Student Needs (GSNs), which is the vehicle through which the government provides funding to Ontario’s school boards. The Ministry estimates that education funding in 2017–2018 will increase by $880 million to $23.8 billion. That represents an increase of $433 per student, up to $12,100 per student next year as compared to $11,667 per student in the current school year.
It should not be lost on OSSTF/FEESO members that a large proportion of the increase—about $500 million—is a direct result of the contract extension agreements reached between the education unions, including OSSTF/FEESO, and the government.
The GSN increases beyond what came out of those negotiations are much less noteworthy. With the exception of the continued phase-in of Special Education Funding (final year of phase-in) and changes to the Geographic Circumstances and Remote and Rural phase-in (final year of phase-in), those increases do not alter the learning environment for students or the working environment for educators in any significant way.
The Ministry has created a Local Priorities Fund to implement the various conditions of the recently concluded extension agreements. For OSSTF/FEESO, this $220 million fund will be used to implement the increases in staffing for support staff and teachers, and to augment Adult Day School salaries. The Local Priorities Fund will continue into the next school year, but its existence beyond that is uncertain.
Salary and benefit benchmarks have been updated to reflect the salary increases ($257 million) negotiated as part of the extension agreements, and Boards will receive one-time funding ($86 million) for professional development, also reflecting the terms of the contract extensions.
The government will invest $56 million to reduce class sizes in Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) and in grades 4 through 8, as per the extension agreements negotiated with OSSTF/FEESO and the other education unions.
School boards will have access to $10 million in new funding to assist in labour relations implementation, and the Community Use of Schools Allocation is being increased by 3 per cent ($800,000) to reflect the cost of keeping schools open after hours.
Not included in GSN funding is a School Condition Improvement (SCI) fund of $1 billion, which will be available for 2017–2018 for major building and site renewal work, as well as repairs and maintenance to schools. As part of the SCI, the Ministry has created a $200 million Green House Gas Reduction initiative for more efficient, cleaner energy.