WATCH: Teachers' union calling for review of Ontario's education funding formula

school lockers

The union representing Ontario's elementary school teachers is calling on the Wynne government to do an independent review of the formula it uses to fund the education system.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario commissioned an economist report looking at what gaps have been created by the current funding formula, and recommendations on how to improve the system.

Union officials say the formula that was brought in by the Harris government 20 years ago was meant to reduce overall system costs and hasn't been reviewed in 15 years. The union says students have been "shortchanged."

ETFO acknowledges that the Liberal government has increased funding since coming into power, but that the money has gone mostly to new programs, instead of to address the cuts made by the previous Conservative government.

The report says that special education, ESL programs, students at risk and school maintenance have been underfunded since 1997.

"We're here talking about a funding formula, we're talking about numbers, but at the end of the day, what we're talking about is continuing to improve the publicly-funded public education system," ETFO president Sam Hammond said during a press conference Monday. "Why? Because the students in that system deserve nothing less."

The report says that one issue with the funding formula is that it uses a statistical model instead of addressing actual needs from one classroom to another.

The union makes seven recommendations including increasing special education funding this fall, decreasing class sizes for grades 4 through 8, addressing the funding gap between elementary and secondary school students, and launching an evidence-based review of the funding formula.

Education minister Mitzie Hunter released a statement in response to the recommendations, saying that her government has already promised some increased funding for special education this year, and smaller class sizes.

"Our government collaborates regularly with our education partners on education funding which is why this year we’re providing an additional $219 million for additional teachers and education workers to support special education and students at-risk,  $20 million for a Rural and Northern Education Fund, investments to reduce class sizes in Full-Day Kindergarten and Grades 4 to 8, historic investments in school renewal and a $69 million increase to the Special Education Grant, including dedicated new funding for special education needs in northern Ontario," Hunter writes.

She stops short, though, of promising a public review of the formula used.

"Our government is committed to ensuring that every student across the province has an equal opportunity for an excellent education and stand by our significant changes and investments in the education funding formula."