Budget Pressures Grow with Changes to Funding Formula Including Class Size
The Toronto District School Board is projecting a $54.4-million deficit, following changes to the funding formula handed down by the Ministry of Education.
Board staff caution that the deficit may grow, as the full details of the funding envelope for education - known as the Grants for Student Needs, or GSN - and a more detailed portrait of the board’s more than $3-billion budget are revealed by the ministry at the end of April.
“We don’t have all the details yet, but what we do know is that we will be facing budget pressures that we won’t be able to easily absorb without some tough decisions,” said board chair Robin Pilkey. “We will be working hard to ensure our students feel the impact of this projected deficit as little as possible.”
Among the changes is a decrease in funding associated with larger class sizes in Grades 4 to 8. The Ministry has directed school boards to raise the average class size to 24.5 students, which would violate collective agreements the TDSB has signed with its union locals, and is legally bound to meet, which stipulate that the average class size should be no larger than 23.24 students.
This has created a $9.6-million pressure for the board as the government will not fund to the collective agreements it negotiated in the last contract.
The ministry has also eliminated funding that paid for early childhood educators to supervise kindergarten students over recess and at lunch, creating another $7.9-million pressure.
A little less than half of the deficit is structural, meaning board policies or programming could be adjusted in order to address a portion of that fiscal pressure. The primary cause of the structural deficit is that the Board has been funding some programs and services that respond to the unique and at times extraordinary demands of urban education. Many are outside of the Ministry funding envelope and most school boards don’t offer these programs and services. In the past, the Board made up that shortfall through savings found during the school year and efficiencies in other areas of the budget – cuts that have not affected classrooms and students. With the Board now running out of options, it hopes to keep its programs and services but it may have to deliver them differently.
The Ministry of Education has also directed school boards to raise the average high school class size from 22 to 28 students over the next four years, meaning there will be 800 fewer teachers in TDSB schools by 2022-23. In addition to the savings in teacher salaries, the ministry will be reducing funding for classroom operating costs, but has not disclosed those amounts.
“We really won’t know the full picture until later this month, when the ministry releases the Grants for Student Needs,” said Dr. Malloy. “What is clear at this point though is that the board is going to face some tough decisions.”