Ontario Special Education Funding is Discriminatory and Unjust



March 21, 2019

OTTAWA – Ontario’s Special Education Grants deny up to 34,500 of the province’s most vulnerable students the learning support they need. In its new report, Funding Fairness for Students in Ontario with Special Education Needs, think tank Cardus finds provincial education funding to accommodate children with special needs is unfairly allocated based on the type of school the student attends rather than on the need of the child. This means Ontario’s $3 billion in Special Education Grants are available only to students in government-run schools. Students who attend independent schools receive zero support.

“Under the current arrangements, if a student with special needs transfers from a public school to an independent school, they are not permitted to transfer any equipment and services which had been provided, regardless of individualized custom fitting or design,” according to Funding Fairness. “Without even discussing the waste involved in this, this is discrimination based on school choice which disregards the needs of the child.”

Ray Pennings, report co-author and Cardus executive vice-president, says the system must change.

“It is indefensible that in this modern era, we still discriminate against students living with a disability,” says Ray Pennings, Cardus executive vice-president and report co-author. “Services for students living with a disability should be based on need and not on the school the child attends.”

Funding Fairness recommends Ontario provide equitable funding for students with special needs in independent schools by supplying their schools with up to 75 percent of the level of support  government-run schools get in this area. With an estimated maximum of 34,500 students receiving help, this would cost the provincial treasury about $195 million.

“Providing equitable access to equipment and services to all students living with a disability is a matter of basic fairness that will enable all Ontario children to learn, thrive, and succeed,” says report co-author and Cardus senior fellow Dr. Deani Van Pelt. “Adjusting Ontario’s outdated policy will help the province achieve greater inclusion and equity.”

Funding Fairness for Students in Ontario with Special Education Needs is available online.

Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus - Director of Communications
613-241-4500 x508


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