OCDSB Trustee Report: Raising flags over education funding formulas

by Erica Braunovan

OCDSB Trustee, Somerset/ Kitchissippi

Welcome back! Did your summer zoom by at lightning speed, too? Long after my student days and even before I became a mom, September always felt natural for a fresh start: new plans, new goals and new energy.

As always, I am committed to helping ensure all students have equal and equitable access to high-quality education. This year that means working with parents to explore solutions to a funding formula issue.

In June, the independent charitable organization People for Education released a report showing growing gaps in school fundraising and ongoing inequities. Just weeks ago, the Elementary Teacher’s Foundation of Ontario (ETFO) raised flags of its own over the province’s education funding formula.

These issues arose in the late 90s, when a new funding model was introduced. Since then, there have been no shortages of criticism and calls to action, but few results in closing the gap among students and schools throughout our communities.

A basic examination of the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study confirms this disparity isn’t unique to the hugely diverse population of Toronto. Within the Somerset/Kitchissippi zone alone, we have an expansive range of families above and well below average income in Canada. Within our zone, and certainly throughout Ottawa, we see unacceptable inequity among school resources.

ETFO’s analysis of the funding formula found that school-based fundraising efforts in affluent regions brought in nearly $200 million more than the grants distributed by the government to help schools in low-income communities.

The learning opportunities grants distribute an average of $170 per student, while fundraising brings in an average of $280 per student.

Schools in more affluent areas are using fundraising proceeds for new sports fields and playgrounds, laptops and field trips. Schools in low-income communities struggle to run nutrition programs. After two decades, the gaps won’t be closed with a quick fix, but we can’t delay addressing the issue any longer.

I have begun by requesting a memo from our board that will present the parent council fundraising dollars for all schools, as well as donated scholarships. These memos will be available online when complete and, later this fall, I will convene the parent councils to discuss.

I invite all parents and residents to get in touch with me at erica.braunovan@ocdsb.ca to share their thoughts on this issue. Funding formulas and fundraising efforts can have a direct impact on a child’s experience at their school — and experiences in school can have a lasting impact on their future success. I hope we can all come together for all children in our community.

Notices

Visit ostabusplanner.ottawaschoolbus.ca for information about school transportation and to subscribe to notifications of delays and cancellations. Parents can register online for the upcoming School Bus and Pedestrian Safety Day on Sunday, September 24, 2017. There are eight locations available throughout the city. More information is available on OSTA’s website.

If one of your goals for the new school year is getting more involved in your community’s schools, visit the online volunteer section of the OCDSB website. There are plenty of opportunities for parents and non-parents alike to make a difference in a child’s education!