Media Release: FAO releases financial overview of Ontario’s school boards


TORONTO, December 12, 2023  Today, the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO) released a report which examines how provincial funding is allocated to Ontario’s 72 district school boards and reviews differences across English Public, English Catholic, French Public and French Catholic school systems. In addition, the report analyzes the demographic composition of Ontario’s students and the availability of French-system and Catholic-system school spaces; analyzes school board spending, budget balance and accumulated surplus patterns; and discusses academic performance by school board and system.

In the 2021-22 school year, there were approximately 2.0 million children enrolled in Ontario’s public schools. The English Public school system is the largest, with 31 school boards and 1.3 million students enrolled in 2021-22, followed by the English Catholic system, with 29 school boards and 554,739 students, the French Catholic system, with eight school boards and 76,501 students, and the French Public system, with four school boards and 34,588 students.

In 2021-22, the Ministry of Education provided an estimated $26.7 billion in operating funding to school boards. On a per-student basis, school boards received an average of $13,364 in provincial funding. By school system, on a per-student basis, the English Public and English Catholic systems received $13,027 and $13,252, respectively. French-language school systems received higher per-student funding at $18,585 for the French Public system and $17,680 for the French Catholic system. On average, French-system school boards received higher per-student funding because they had lower enrolment (some provincial grants provide a minimum fixed amount to each school board regardless of size), had higher dispersion (additional funding is provided to school boards with schools that are far apart from one another), were more remote (additional funding is provided to school boards with schools that are far from an urban centre), and received targeted French-language funding.

In the 2021-22 school year, school boards spent a total of $28.8 billion, or an average of $14,426 per student. Generally, school boards with lower enrolment had higher total spending per student compared to larger school boards. In 2021-22, small school boards spent an average of $19,886 per-student, while medium-sized school boards spent $15,365 per-student and large school boards spent $13,851 per-student. Overall, this reflects the ability of school boards with higher enrolment levels to spread fixed costs over a larger student population and therefore spend less per student. In addition, many of the smaller school boards are in locations that are remote, rural and disperse, and may face higher costs for providing student transportation, as well as supplies, equipment and services.

After accounting for total school board revenue from provincial and other sources, school boards had a combined budget surplus of $0.1 billion in 2021-22, representing 0.5 per cent of total school boards’ revenue. Of the Province’s 72 school boards, 57 recorded budget surpluses for the 2021-22 school year, while the remaining 15 school boards recorded budget deficits. As of the end of the 2021-22 school year (August 31, 2022), school boards had a combined accumulated surplus (the sum of school boards’ budget surpluses and deficits over time) of $6.6 billion, representing 22.6 per cent of 2021-22 revenue. Of the Province’s 72 school boards, 71 had an accumulated surplus, while only one school board had an accumulated deficit.

The Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) administers a province-wide standardized testing program each year to assess students’ academic outcomes in reading, writing and math. These test results are used by the Ministry of Education to measure the success of education policies and evaluate the performance of Ontario’s education system. In 2021-22, across all disciplines and grades, the FAO estimates that the province-wide average pass rate (the share of tests administered that were assessed as meeting or exceeding the provincial standard) was 67.7 per cent. By school system, the French Public school boards had the best performance overall, with an average EQAO pass rate of 74.2 per cent across all tested grades and disciplines, followed by French Catholic school boards, with a pass rate of 70.7 per cent. The pass rates for the English Catholic and English Public school systems were 69.0 per cent and 66.8 per cent, respectively. Across all four school systems, on average, school boards that were more rural, more remote, more disperse and smaller had lower average EQAO pass rates.

To learn more, read the full report here.

Quick Facts:

  • In 2021, there were 268,250 school-aged children and youth whose parents were French-language rights-holders, but only 158,309 total spaces in French-system schools (Public and Catholic), resulting in a coverage rate of 59.0 per cent.
  • The FAO estimates that, in 2021, 570,116 school-aged children in Ontario identified as Catholic or had at least one Catholic parent, compared to 725,416 total spaces in Catholic schools, leading to a coverage rate of 127.2 per cent.
  • In the six years from 2015-16 to 2021-22, total school board per-student spending grew at an average annual rate of 2.3 per cent, compared to an average annual inflation rate of 2.5 per cent over this period. By category, infrastructure spending grew the fastest, at an average annual rate of 6.3 per cent. This was followed by transportation spending, which grew at 4.5 per cent annually, other spending at 3.1 per cent, non-teacher instruction spending at 2.6 per cent, administration at 1.9 per cent, teacher compensation at 1.8 per cent and pupil accommodation at 0.9 per cent.
  • By school system, the French Catholic system had the highest average budget surplus as a share of revenue (1.7 per cent) in 2021-22, followed by the French Public system (1.1 per cent), English Public system (0.5 per cent) and English Catholic system (0.4 per cent).
  • Additional information for each school board is available on the FAO’s website at:

About the FAO:

Established by the Financial Accountability Officer Act, 2013, the Financial Accountability Office (FAO) provides independent analysis on the state of the Province’s finances, trends in the provincial economy and related matters important to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

Visit our website or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn for more information on our reports.


For further information, please contact:
Sophia Zhu | 416.931.5498 | |