WINNIPEG, MB & HALIFAX, NS:
A new study jointly published today by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy and the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies shows that per-pupil education costs are soaring all across Canada. As taxpayers shoulder an ever-increasing burden, there is little evidence that higher spending is producing better educational outcomes for Canadian students.
In “The Cost Disease Infects Public Education across Canada,” Professor Rod Clifton examines expenditures on education in Canada’s provinces and territories between 1999 and 2010, showing that while public school enrollment decreased by 6.8%, the number of educators increased by 8.0%. More significantly, the expenditures increased by about 60% from slightly over $37.3 billion to almost $59.2 billion. If spending increases had been held to rate of inflation (as measured by the Consumer Price Index) during this period, governments across Canada would have saved a total of $12.4 billion in 2010/11 alone.
Key provincial findings for the period between 1999-2010 include:
• In Manitoba, enrollment decreased by 9.7%, while the number of educators increased by 3.1%. Per student spending increased by 77%.
• In Saskatchewan, the number of students decreased by 13.2%, while the number of educators increased by 5.8%. Per student spending increased by 95%.
• In Ontario, the number of students decreased by 2.9%, while the number of educators increased by 16.3%, Per student spending increased by 69%.
• In Nova Scotia the number of students decreased by 19%, while the number of educators increased by 3.7%. Per student spending increased by 75%.
• In New Brunswick, the number of students decreased by 18%, while the number of educators increased by 1.5%. Per student spending increased by 73%
Across the country increasingly more resources have flowed into school jurisdictions with fewer and fewer students, school bureaucracies have expanded and educators have received higher salaries for teaching fewer students. There is little, if any, evidence that increasing the costs of education results in better learning outcomes for students.
Both the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy have proposed increasing competition among public and private schools to reduce costs and improve learning outcomes. “The most effective way for provinces and territories to increase competition is to tie the funding of schools directly to the demand by using vouchers that increase at the rate of the CPI. These vouchers would allow parents to send their children to any public or private school of their choice,” said Clifton.
Parent–controlled funding would force both public and private schools to concentrate on objective, measurable, outputs, notably standardized measures of academic achievement. Students would be tested and the results would be published so that excellent schools attracted more students while low-performing schools withered and closed. These manageable changes could save considerable money and make schools more responsive to the needs of students, parents, and taxpayers. Professor Clifton says that curing the cost disease is the only real option for sustaining viable educational systems across Canada.
Senior Fellow, Frontier Centre for Public Policy and Professor Emeritus, University of Manitoba
Email: [email protected]