At On­tario schools, we pay more, get less

Northern News (Kirkland Lake) - - OPINION -

When it comes to On­tario’s public ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, tax­pay­ers have been pay­ing more but get­ting less un­der Premier Kath­leen Wynne’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment.

Last week, the prov­ince’s Ed­u­ca­tion Qual­ity and Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice (EQAO) re­ported only half of Grade 6 stu­dents are meeting the provin­cial stan­dard in math.

In Grade 9, only 44 per cent are meeting the provin­cial stan­dard in ap­plied math and ap­plied lit­er­acy. While the num­bers are better in the aca­demic stream in high school (83 per cent of Grade 9 stu­dents met the math stan­dard and 92 per cent the lit­er­acy stan­dard), this means the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is fail­ing our most vul­ner­a­ble stu­dents.

Premier Kath­leen Wynne an­nounced the gov­ern­ment will start public con­sul­ta­tions to mod­ern­ize the cur­ricu­lum, with a fo­cus on math.

Now comes word from the Fraser In­sti­tute that these poor (and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing) aca­demic re­sults in Grade 6 math and Grade 9 ap­plied math and lit­er­acy are oc­cur­ring de­spite sub­stan­tial in­creases in ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing by the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment un­der Wynne and her pre­de­ces­sor, Dal­ton McGuinty.

In ad­di­tion, the cost of public ed­u­ca­tion in On­tario has been steadily ris­ing while en­rol­ment is drop­ping.

The Fraser study found be­tween 2005-06 and 2014-15, public spend­ing on ed­u­ca­tion rose from $19.5 bil­lion an­nu­ally to $26.6 bil­lion, a 36.4 per cent in­crease. Ad­justed for in­fla­tion, per stu­dent spend­ing rose from $10,762 an­nu­ally in 2005-06 to $13,276 in 2014-15, a 23.4 per cent in­crease.

And yet dur­ing the same pe­riod, en­rol­ment in On­tario public schools dropped by 5.4 per cent, de­clin­ing from 2,118,546 in 2005-06 to 2,003,238 in 2014-15.

One of the main fac­tors driv­ing up ed­u­ca­tion costs, the Fraser In­sti­tute re­ported, has been a huge in­crease in the provin­cial con­tri­bu­tion to teacher pen­sions, which rose from $740 mil­lion in 2005-06 to $1.53 bil­lion in 2014-15, an in­crease of 106.8 per cent, or al­most 8.8 per cent an­nu­ally.

That means On­tario tax­pay­ers have been pay­ing more for public ed­u­ca­tion over the past decade and get­ting less, con­sid­er­ing both de­clin­ing en­rol­ment and de­clin­ing EQAO test scores.

Last week, Wynne said On­tario stu­dents “are part of a strong and ex­cel­lent ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem” stud­ied around the world.

Re­ally? Re­gard­less of who may be study­ing On­tario’s sys­tem, in the real world, re­sults mat­ter.

Es­ca­lat­ing costs in a time of de­clin­ing en­rol­ment and de­te­ri­o­rat­ing test scores are not a mea­sure of suc­cess.

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