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TORONTO, Ont. Oct. 2/07 – Ontario’s faulty school funding formula resulted in an estimated $189 million funding shortfall for Educational Assistants (EAs) for the 2006-2007 year, according to a new study by economist Hugh Mackenzie. Furthermore, the report demonstrates that $20 million in funds announced by the McGuinty government this past August for improvements in salary benchmarks has had virtually no impact on the layoffs of Educational Assistants sweeping boards across the province.

“While the government claimed that its August funding increased salary benchmarks by 22 per cent, the reality is that EA funding increased by only 2.4 per cent,” says Mackenzie, who conducted the study for the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, that represents educational support staff in schools. “To back up its claim, the government would have needed to invest between $143 million to $183 million, not $20 million, to fix the problem it said it was fixing.”

Mackenzie says the data highlights the parallel universe between the formula and the reality at the school board level. The funding formula suggests that there should be nearly 28,000 EA positions in school boards, yet in 2006-2007, there were barely more than 21,000. Nearly 24% of EAs contemplated by the funding formula aren’t present in the system, says Mackenzie, because the salaries set by the funding formula are short by 22% and boards have made up the difference by employing fewer EAs.

“What this study underlines is that, while the Conservatives and Liberals—the two parties responsible for the state of education funding in Ontario—carry on a debate about funding religious schools, the faulty funding formula for which they are both responsible continues to short-change the most vulnerable students in the province,” says Fred Hahn, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “Every missing EA is a missed opportunity to make a difference for students who need extra support.” Only the NDP has said they will fix the funding formula.

This past July, CUPE Ontario released statistics showing that 60 per cent of school boards were planning to cut jobs, including at least 300 EAs. The widespread coverage generated by that announcement helped push McGuinty into an August statement on funding.

“While Mr. McGuinty may have hoped that his August funding announcement would appease voters, the research presented today shows just how ineffectual these band-aid solutions are,” says Hahn. “The only real solution is to fix the funding formula, something neither McGuinty nor Tory are prepared to do. And let’s not forget that it was Tory’s party that brought in the faulty formula 10 years ago. That represented an immediate cut of $500 million to the system in 1997, and shortfalls have continued to get worse over the years.”
The EA report is drawn from the results of a forthcoming broader study of funding for support staff under Ontario’s education funding formula being prepared by Mackenzie for CUPE Ontario.