Foundations of Education


Describes how Ontario's educational system is funded.

Key Concepts

  • provincial funding formula
  • per pupil basis
  • enveloped funding

Graded Tasks

  • prepare for your seminar this week

Educational Financing

Funding for education in Ontario is established through a provincial funding formula (). Much of the funding is tied to enrolment, and is intended to provide equal educational opportunities for all students. This topic briefly explains how the educational system is funded in Ontario (incorporating text with permission from the People for Education website). The Ontario Ministry of Education has also published a brief introduction to educational funding for parents ().

Per Pupil Funding

Most educational funding in Ontario is tied to enrolment.

Funding for classroom teachers, educational assistants, textbooks, learning materials, classroom supplies, technology, library and guidance services, and professional and para-professional supports is allocated on a per pupil basis. (e.g., for every 763 elementary students the province provides funding for one teacher-librarian).

Funding to heat, light, maintain, and repair school buildings also depends, for the most part, on student numbers. For example, in a given year, there may be funding to maintain 104 square feet per elementary student, 130 square feet per secondary student and 100 square feet per adult education student.

While a proportion of a school board's funding is based on numbers of students, there are other grants (e.g., special education, English and French language support, transportation, declining enrolment, and learning opportunities) which are added to the per pupil funding base.

Per pupil funding is not meant to be equal, as different school boards have different needs. But it is meant to provide equal educational opportunities for all students.

Equal vs. Equal Opportunities

Think about the meaning of the final sentence in the above section. In preparation for your seminar this week, write out an answer to the following question. Your TA may call on you to share your answer in the seminar:
Q4.4: The "Educational Financing" topic for this week includes the following phrase: "Per pupil funding is not meant to be equal, as different school boards have different needs. But it is meant to provide equal educational opportunities for all students." Provide an example of a situation where funding may not be equal, but nevertheless provides equal opportunities for students. (Answer Length: 100 - 150 words | Format: Sentences)
Potential Seminar Question

Role of the Ontario Government

The Government of Ontario (through the Ministry of Education) provides funding to school boards based on a number of factors, including the number of students in a school board, the number of schools, the percentage of high-needs special education students, the number of students who have either English or French as their second language, and a school board’s unique geographical needs (e.g., some school boards have many smaller schools which are dispersed far apart, increasing busing costs).

Most funding can be moved from one category to another by a school board, which means that many funding decisions are made at the school board level. However, there are a few exceptions where funding may not be moved. The province refers to this funding as enveloped funding. For example, funding for special education, for student achievement in the Learning Opportunities Grant, and for capital expenditures (e.g., funding to build a new school) is largely enveloped and cannot be spent for other purposes.

The Ministry of Education announces revisions to educational funding and the amounts that school boards will receive in the spring of each year.
📌 Where does the money come from?

Per the Ontario Ministry of Education, "school boards receive money in two ways. First, some of the property taxes collected in your community go to your local school board. Second, the province tops up this amount to bring the total for each board up to the amount set out by the funding formula."

Role of School Boards

School boards make decisions about individual school budgets and determine the criteria for allocating budgetary items (e.g., the number of students a school must have in order to be allocated a teacher-librarian, vice-principal, or full-time principal).

School boards distribute funding for teachers depending on the number of students in a school/class and, in some cases, depending on the number of students who might struggle to succeed – either because of socio-economic or cultural factors, or because they have special education needs.

School boards also decide which schools should stay open and which should close, and how many custodians, secretaries, and educational assistants to assign to each school.

Role of Principals

Each principal receives a budget for his or her school from the school board. The principal makes funding allocation decisions about school maintenance and repair needs etc. from within that budget.

Principals also make decisions about the distribution of teachers and class sizes (within the constraints of the Ontario Ministry of Education's criteria). The principal decides how to allocate specialized staff within the school, such as educational assistants, teacher-librarians, and department heads.

Principals also make decisions on fees. In conjunction with the school council, they make decisions as to where to allocate monies the school has accrued through fundraising.