Is this about money again per chance?
That is certainly a big part of it. How can Ontario justify funding massive duplication and waste in the school system when it cannot properly fund our truly essential programs?
In Ontario, almost without exception, the smaller the school board and the more geographically dispersed its schools and students, the higher the per pupil funding. This pattern certainly holds in Ottawa:
School board funding for Ottawa school boards, 2012-13 Ministry figures (projected):
School board Total funding Total enrolment Cost per pupil
English public (EP) $724,207,148 66,926 $10,821
English Catholic (EC) $403,135,523 35,510 $11,352 (EP + $531)
French Catholic (FC) $250,070,875 18,914 $13,221
French public (FP) $162,860,654 10,887 $14,959 (FC + $1738)
Per pupil funding for the English Catholic, French Catholic, and French public school boards is respectively 4.9%, 22.2%, and 38.2% higher than for the English public board. The smaller French public school board receives 13.1% more per pupil than its French Catholic counterpart.
This is not favouritism. This is the Ministry of Education recognizing – right in the funding formula – that smaller school boards are unable to realize the same efficiencies and economies as their larger counterparts in the same area. It is proof that our smaller school boards cost significantly more money to run.
Under one school system, the per pupil cost in each system would certainly be no higher than the lower cost on each of the English and the French sides. Thus the savings from going to one school system in Ottawa on the English side alone total at least $531 x 35,510 English Catholic students = $18,855,810 per year. On the French side, at least $1,738 x 10,887 French public students = $18,921,606 would be saved.
The total savings would actually be even higher, however, as the geographic densities of schools and students in the larger English and French boards are also not as high as they would be under one system. The cost to deliver education of the same quality as now under one school system is certainly less than the current $10,821 on the English side (as even the English public board is not as efficient as it would be under one school system) and less than $13,221 on the French side. The savings could be reinvested into improving education for all children.
Public-Catholic board mergers would also allow Ontario to neatly rationalize the hundreds of thousands of excess pupil places in Ontario schools – many of these in severely under enrolled schools that are less cost effective to operate than full schools. While merging overlapping school boards, the successor boards could combine adjacent, under enrolled public and Catholic schools while cherry picking the best schools from each of the predecessor boards’ inventories. The lower operating costs realized by shedding the oldest and most costly properties would provide a system wide savings that would last for decades. It would also create more cost effective full schools in many communities where two more costly half empty schools existed previously. The combination of under enrolled schools would also significantly reduce the prevalence of split grade classes as the splits in adjacent under enrolled schools were combined in one school.
Not all of the benefits of merging our school systems are financial. By combining adjacent under enrolled schools, schools that now cannot achieve the critical mass for many programs and courses would do so, broadening academic opportunities for all students. In its reports, People for Education consistently bemoans the disadvantages faced by smaller schools in terms of programming, but the fact is many of these disadvantages are a direct consequence of our school system’s crazy, unnecessarily fractured organization.