The Ministry of Education provides the bulk of operating funding to Ontario's seventy-two district school boards through the annual Grants for Student Needs (GSN), which are determined according to a series of formulas collectively known as “the funding formula”. These grants are described in detail in a regulation made annually under the Education Act. GSN funding can be broadly categorized as providing support in four areas: classroom needs, including the cost of educators and materials, resources, and tools to support learning; school leadership and operations; specific student-related priorities; and local management by school boards.

Education funding consists of foundation grants – a Pupil Foundation Grant and a School Foundation Grant – and a number of special purpose grants. Foundation grants and special purpose grants each account for about half of a school board's GSN funding. The grants are distinguished as follows:

  • foundation grants support the elements of a classroom education that are common to all students;
  • special purpose grants address the unique needs of the students and the schools of the board based on school location, specific programs offered, and demographic profile.

The total GSN allocation for each school board is determined by the funding formula. The allocation consists of (1) funds from the education levy on property tax that is collected by the municipality and calculated using a rate set by the provincial Ministry of Finance, and (2) funds from the province to make up the difference between the property tax collected and the total allocation.

Formulas used to determine education funding are applied equitably to all boards and are designed to respond to the unique requirements of individual students and individual boards. While the Ministry of Education is responsible for the funding policy that directs the allocation of funds to school boards, each school board is responsible for allocating resources to schools, programs, and services according to their local needs and priorities.

Funding for Special Education

In addition to foundation grants, the ministry provides funding to school boards for students with special education needs through the Special Education Grant (SEG), one of the GSN's special purpose grants. The SEG supports the incremental costs of the additional programs, services, and equipment required to meet the educational needs of these students and to support positive outcomes for them. In this way, it ensures equity for all students with special education needs.

School boards have the authority to use their total GSN funding allocation – the SEG and other GSN grants – to meet their responsibility to provide programs and/or services for students who have special education needs. SEG funding, however, can be used only for special education. Any unspent SEG funding must be treated as deferred revenue for special education.

The SEG is made up of six allocations:

  1. The Special Education Per–Pupil Amount (SEPPA) provides every school board with foundational funding towards the cost of special education programs and/or services required by students with special education needs.
  2. The Differentiated Special Education Needs Amount (DSENA) addresses the variation among boards with respect to students with special education needs and boards' abilities to respond to these needs.
  3. The Special Equipment Amount (SEA) provides funding to assist boards with the costs of equipment essential to supporting students with special education needs where the need for specific equipment is recommended by a qualified professional. This equipment is to provide students with the accommodations that are required to enable them to access the Ontario curriculum and/or a board-determined alternative program and/or course, and/or to attend school. Eligibility criteria are outlined in the ministry document Special Education Funding Guidelines: Special Equipment Amount (SEA).
  4. The Special Incidence Portion (SIP) provides funding for school boards for support staff to ensure the health and/or safety both of students who have extraordinarily high needs related to their disabilities and/or exceptionalities and of others at the school. Eligibility criteria are outlined in the ministry document Special Education Funding Guidelines: Special Incidence Portion (SIP).
  5. The Education and Community Partnership Program (ECPP) Allocation provides funding for school boards to provide education programs for school-aged children and youth in government-approved care and/or treatment, custody, and correctional facilities. These facilities include hospitals, children’s mental health centres, psychiatric institutions, detention and correctional facilities, community group homes, and social services agencies. The provision of education in these facilities is subject to an agreement between a school board and the facility.
  6. The Behaviour Expertise Amount (BEA) provides funding for school boards to hire board-level personnel who have applied behaviour analysis (ABA) expertise. The use of ABA instructional approaches has proven to be effective for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and for other students with special education needs.

More information on the Special Education Grant can be found on the Education Funding page of the ministry website.