Schools’ $15.9 billion Repairs Backlog

Commissioned by the Campaign for Public Education, a comprehensive study of Ontario’s school repairs and maintenance backlog has been undertaken by economist Hugh Mackenzie.   Mackenzie’s report, which will be posted on this site November 14th, will detail how the next Ontario government can eliminate the school repairs and maintenance problem across the province.

Building on the Mackenzie report, and in conjunction with Fix Our Schools Campaign, we at CPE have launched a province-wide campaign to eliminate the repairs and maintenance backlog in Ontario’s schools.

Years of inadequate public education funding under a badly outdated Ministry of Education funding formula have put too many of Ontario’s 72 school boards in the position of having to choose between instructional programming for students and facility maintenance.

The choice to defer maintenance expenditures and renewal investments to protect student instructional programs was highlighted in the December 2002 report of the Education Equality Task Force (known as the Rozanski Report), which identified a deferred maintenance backlog estimated at $5.6 billion and growing.

Despite several rounds of special funding aimed at school facility renewal over the ensuing 15 years, the backlog, as measured by the Ministry, has grown consistently, and now stands at $15.9 billion.[1]

A 2015 report from Ontario’s Auditor-General zeros in on the chronic underfunding by our provincial government that has led to the rapid and continuous increase of disrepair in Ontario’s schools, “An independent assessment calculated that the Ministry of Education needs $1.4 billion a year to maintain schools in a state of good repair.

However, actual funding in the last five years has ranged from $150 million to $500 million.” In the three years between 2011 – 2014, provincial funding to school boards for school renewal was only $150 million per year – roughly one-tenth of what the Auditor-General’s Report indicated was needed. Cumulatively, between 2011-2014, provincial funding ought to have been $4.2-billion in total but was only $450 million, a funding shortfall of $3.6 billion for school repairs over only three years.

[1] Even this figure is an understatement. Of the 4,636 schools in the detailed database released in 2017, no data on renewal needs was reported for 346, of which 284 were shown as not having been assessed.