The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

February 12, 2015 06:25 ET

Fraser Institute: News Release; Spending on Public Schools Across Canada Increases While Student Enrolment Falls

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Feb. 12, 2015) - Despite a steady decline in student enrolment, spending on public schools in Canada has skyrocketed, finds a new study released today by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.

The study, Education Spending in Canada: What's Actually Happening?, examines changes in spending on public schools in Canada over the last decade.

"Teachers' unions and activists repeatedly claim that education spending is being cut and school budgets are in peril. That's simply not true and ignores the reality of public education spending in Canada," said Deani Van Pelt, study co-author and director of the Fraser Institute's Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education.

For example, between 2001/02 and 2011/12, the most recent years for which data is available, spending in public schools across all provinces rose to $59.6 billion from $38.9 billion-a 53.1 per cent increase.

Yet despite these spending increases, during this 10-year period public school enrolment dropped in almost every province. Subsequently, on a per student basis, for that time period, spending on public schools increased 63.2 per cent, rising to $11,835 from $7,250.

In Ontario, for example, where education spending on public schools increased by 62.4 per cent (the third largest increase in the country), enrolment dropped by 5.5 per cent.

In British Columbia, where education spending on public schools increased by 24.7 per cent, enrolment dropped by 11.6 per cent, the steepest drop outside Atlantic Canada.

Only Alberta (which increased education spending on public schools by a whopping 92.4 per cent, the largest increase in the country) saw an increase in enrolment, at 5.4 per cent.

"In almost every province, we are spending more dollars to educate fewer students," Van Pelt said.

What does this mean for Canadian taxpayers?

According to the study, had per pupil spending at public schools in Canada increased over the period merely at the rate of inflation, provincial governments in 2011/12 would have saved $14.8 billion.

"Overall spending on public schools in Canada has increased dramatically and any narrative to the contrary distracts from the ultimate goal of improving education for Canadian students," Van Pelt said.

A short video spotlighting public education spending in Canada is also available on the Fraser Institute's YouTube channel.

Study author Deani Van Pelt is in Southern Ontario and available for media interviews.

Spending on public schools, percentage increase (2001/02-2011/12) Public school enrolment percentage change (2001/02-2011/12)
Canada 53.1 -6.2
Newfoundland & Labrador 42.2 -22.0
Nova Scotia 50.8 -18.2
Prince Edward Island 51.3 -8.8
New Brunswick 59.9 -16.5
Quebec 36.6 -5.8
Ontario 62.4 -5.5
Manitoba 35.6 -5.3
Saskatchewan 67.7 -8.6
Alberta 92.4 +5.4
British Columbia 24.7 -11.6

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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit

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