Ontario's fiscal watchdog predicts $12.3B spending gap in education sector by 2029-30

A custodian cleans a teacher's desk in a classroom at Brubaker Elementary School, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

One of Ontario's fiscal watchdogs says provincial funding allocated for education over the next several years falls billions of dollars short of what it projects will be needed to pay for promised programming.

The Financial Accountability Office issued a report Monday comparing the Ministry of Education's programs and commitments for the period spanning 2019-20 to 2029-30 to the spending plan laid out for the sector in the 2021 Ontario budget.

The watchdog says that based on its analysis, ministry spending should grow at an average annual rate of two per cent, but the budget only calls for an average increase of 1.2 per cent.

It says that would lead to annual spending gaps that would reach $2.9 billion by 2029-30, or a cumulative shortfall of $12.3 billion.

As a result, the FAO says the province will either need to increase funding for education or bring in significant spending cuts.

A spokesperson for the minister of education could not immediately be reached for comment.