Many parents are looking forward to the first day of school next week, but it may bring with it requests for money. Ontario schools rely on fundraising, donations, user fees and other charges to augment provincial funding. In fact, school boards in this province report their schools raise over half a billion dollars in “school-generated funds,” a combination of fundraising, fees, corporate donations, and things like vending machines and cafeterias.
Despite this reliance, Ontario currently has no provincial policy over things like what schools and boards may fundraise for, which fees are acceptable, and which resources must be provided free of charge.
Alongside regular fundraising, and charges for things like field trips, parents across the province pay for everything from student activities to science classes in their children’s schools.
In high school, students not only pay student activity fees, but in many cases they must pay fees for labs and materials and for after-school sports. Our research shows that the average student activity fee is $37, a 55% increase since 2001. Participating in athletics costs even more.
Increased reliance on fees and fundraising inevitably leads to a system of “have” and “have not” schools, as evidenced by the wide range in school fundraising totals – from $0 to $200,000. For some parents, the combination of fees and the pressure to participate in fundraising can be experienced as a form of exclusion or built-in inequity. People for Education is once again calling on the province to articulate a vision for education that outlines what things should be available to all students in every school, at no extra charge. Once the overall vision has been established, then it will be possible to identify the “extras” that might be funded by fees, fundraising and corporate partnerships.
You can read our report on fundraing and fees here.