School funding: a guide for parents
Learn how Ontario schools are funded, how funding decisions are made and how those decisions support your child's achievement in school.
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School funding supports your child's education
Ontario continues to modernize education funding so that every student can receive the best education possible and reach their full potential. Education funding, however, is complex. Learn about how Ontario schools are funded, how funding decisions are made, and how those decisions support your child's achievement in school.
The funding formula
The Ministry of Education provides the majority of operating funding to Ontario’s 72 district school boards through the annual Grants for Student Needs (GSN), also known as “the funding formula.” The GSN is a collection of grants described in detail in an annual regulation under the Education Act. Many grants are made up of two or more components, which are called “allocations.”
Boards use this money to make the local decisions needed to educate their students. They do this by funding and staffing schools, designing programs to meet the needs of their students and fixing, maintaining and building schools.
How your school is funded
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
Funding entitlements for school boards can be generated on a per-pupil, per-school, or per-board basis depending on the structure of each grant within the GSN regulation. There are two major components of the GSN:
- The Foundation Grants cover the basic costs of an educational experience that is common to all students, which is allocated based on student enrolment and the number of schools
- The Supplemental Grants address the unique needs of students, schools and school boards related to location, student and school needs, and a board’s demographic profile
The ministry recognizes that conditions vary widely across Ontario and the funding formula cannot take every situation into account. This is why local school boards have flexibility in how they use funding, within the overall accountability framework discussed in the next section.
In addition to GSN funding, school boards also receive funding from the ministry for special, often time-limited programs, and from other ministries for specific purposes related to their mandates.
School boards may also raise funds on their own. Examples include renting out excess school space or charging fees for enhanced programming. These funds, however, should not be used to replace public funding for education or to support items funded through provincial grants.
Accountability for education funding
The province, through the Ministry of Education, is accountable for the public education system as a whole and the policy decisions that determine funding for school boards. Given their key role in providing services at the local level, school boards have important accountabilities to students, parents, the ministry and others with a stake in public education.
A cornerstone of Ontario’s publicly funded education system is the principle that school boards have a responsibility to ensure the effective stewardship of resources. Thoughtful, transparent budgeting, aligned with a focused strategy, is vital and integral to this goal.
With respect to the GSN, a robust financial accountability framework has been developed between school boards and the province. This framework recognizes that accountability to the ministry must be balanced against the need for school board flexibility to address local conditions. It includes:
- legislative requirements, such as the provision that school boards balance their budgets
- requirements around budgeting and financial reporting, as well as monitoring, audit, review and, in some cases, supervisory activities by the province
- enveloping, which means requiring that certain grants be used only for the purpose intended
- program/grant-specific reporting requirements overseen by various branches of the ministry
Another important activity that supports accountability is collaboration. Ontario has a proud tradition of open and frank conversations about education funding. Through these conversations, the funding formula benefits from the perspectives of others in the system.
Regular engagement and collaboration are invaluable in holding all parties, including the government, accountable for the way education is funded. Annual adjustments are made to grants, informed by the ministry’s ongoing discussions with the sector.
Fees and fundraising in schools