Fairness & Flexibility Should Distinguish Ontario Education Funding


Province should let education funding follow students to schools that meet their needs best


May 26, 2020 

HAMILTON, ON – Ontario needs to introduce a fair and flexible model of education funding, letting funding follow each student to the school that best meets their needs. That’s why think tank Cardus has recommended to the Ontario government that it adopt a new approach: the Innovation through Direct Education Assistance (IDEA) program.

The program would route education funds directly to parents who opt in. IDEA funds could have multiple uses but would be restricted to the purpose of education, such as independent school tuition, personal tutoring, software and learning equipment (e.g. computer), therapies for special needs, and educational materials. Basic eligibility in the program would be open to all Ontario school-age children, with funding particularly targeting students with special needs or low-income families.

“An IDEA program would reduce education inequality in Ontario,” says David Hunt, Education Director at Cardus. “In developed countries where independent schools receive greater proportions of taxpayer funding, the disparities between government and non-government schools disappears, creating a more equitable and robust education ecosystem where advantaged and disadvantaged students aren’t clustered into opposing sectors. Ontario needs a truly pluralistic educational ecosystem – the democratic norm in progressive Europe.”

Ontario’s attempts to shift a colossal education system into a new mode of emergency remote learning because of COVID-19 highlighted three cracks in the structure:

  • Inflexibility in crisis response and in setting up remote instruction
  • Inequity in education delivery with unequal access to digital tools and technologies
  • Inefficiency in the Ministry of Education’s funding model and resource allocation

“It took two weeks for government-run schools to figure out and implement a response to the coronavirus crisis, whereas independent schools turned on a dime,” says David Hunt. “That’s not just because the independents are smaller and nimbler. It’s because their funding comes directly from families, making them highly accountable to parents and students – and very responsive. Government-run schools don’t have the same motivation.”

The solution is to let public dollars follow each student to the school that best meets their needs, including independent schools. Check out full details on the IDEA program online here.


Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications


Cardus is a non-partisan think tank dedicated to clarifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society's institutions can work together for the common good.

Topics: Education, COVID-19