New study shows funding for EAs short $189M - McGuinty's band-aid fix short-changes special needs children

    TORONTO, Oct. 2 /CNW Telbec/ - 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," said 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," stated Mackenzie.
    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," said 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, he added.
    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, said Hahn.
    "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," said 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 presented today 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.

                           Summary Points in Study

    History of Underfunding

     - It was 10 years ago that the Conservative government brought in a new
       funding formula for schools. It instituted a province-wide cut of
       approximately $500 million.
     - At that time, special education was funded at a level substantially
       below the amount identified by an expert panel as the actual amount
       spent by boards in 1997.
     - Because funding benchmarks were not generally increased to match
       increases in costs, the effective amount of the cut in overall funding
       represented by the funding formula increased steadily.
     - The McGuinty government has focused on reductions in class sizes and
       capital investment to address maintenance backlogs, rather than on
       redressing the base funding formula.
     - Where the basics of the formula were changed by the Liberals, the
       impact was generally revenue-neutral. For example, when benchmark
       salaries for teachers were upwardly adjusted, these costs were offset
       by reducing funding for students at risk through the Learning
       Opportunities Grant, and by eliminating the Local Priorities Amount of
       $200 per student.

    Funding Shortfalls: Educational Assistants (EAs)

           Educational Assistants' Funding vs Actual -- $ Million
                      Boards with funding                 Count of Boards
              Year    shortfalls for EAs    All Boards    with shortfalls
             2003-4     $   -5.7              50.9               12
             2004-5     $   -4.9              40.9               18
             2005-6     $  -12.9              23.3               26
             2006-7     $  -25.6             -16.9               47

     - Funding per EA provided under the funding formula is substantially
       below the actual amounts paid by boards to these support staff

     - The government calculates that its annual funding covers 27,813.6
       positions. However, its own Education Finance Information System
       (EFIS) shows that boards actually employ 21,091 positions. The reason
       is that the salary benchmarks are too low compared to actual costs for

     - In August 2007, the government claimed that $20 million in increased
       funding would fund a 22% increase in salary benchmarks for EAs,
       thereby bringing it in line with what school boards actually pay.

     - In reality, the Mackenzie study shows that the new funding would
       provide a benchmark increase for only 2,943.7 positions.

     - To achieve its 22% increase in salary benchmarks for EAs, the McGuinty
       government would have had to invest the following:
       - $183.5 million, (vs $20 million announced) to cover the government-
         funded 27,813 positions
       - $143.2 million for 21,091 EAs actually employed by schools

For further information:

For further information: Valerie Dugale, CUPE Communications, (647)
225-3685; Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer, (416) 540-3979; Hugh
Mackenzie, Hugh Mackenzie and Associates, (416) 884-5378

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