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A Report on Canada's School Expenditure

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This executive summary is part of the report on Canada’s School Expenditure where GPetrium draws out insights through data visualization and analytics. If you would like to visit other articles within this series, please visit our article Canada School Spending Series page.

            Data can be found almost anywhere, but unfortunately, it is often in an unstructured and unpolished way, which can diminish its value to stakeholders. Data Analytics & Visualization can be used to assist policy makers and organizations to make informed decisions. In this report, we will use data analytics and visualization to better understand and derive insights from the Canadian School Expenditures throughout the period of 1973 to 2016.

          The goal of the report is to understand the historical Canadian school spending through data visualization insights to help support governmental policies and societal perspectives on the matter. The dashboard is available at GPetrium.com for those interested in working with the data. Although we appreciate our mobile readers, the visualizations in our webpage are better used and seen on a desktop.

Cover for the Canadian Education Expenditure report

Executive Summary

Education is a major part of Canada’s provincial expenditure. Therefore, changes to the education budget often have major impact on revenue and cost structures. An analysis of the “School Board Expenditures” dataset resulted on the following conclusions:

  • Canada has spent $1.353 trillions in School Expenditure throughout 43 years (1973-2016) not adjusted for inflation.
  • Salaries and wages expenditure are the main cost drivers in Economic classification at $40.13 billion in 2016.
  • Instruction and educational services are the main cost drivers in Functions classification at $43.86 billion in 2016.
  • As a percentage of the Economic Classification, fringe benefits (e.g. pension, benefits) and capital outlay (E.g. maintenance of fixed assets such as school building) has seen the highest increase, while salary and wages expenditure has decreased.
  • Ontario has been the highest spender in education throughout Canada, with its expenses growing exponentially in relation to other provinces. Quebec has remained 2nd, while Alberta has surpassed British Columbia since 2007, taking the 3rd position.
  • Adult education expenses in Canada have experienced an increase of 35% between 2006 and 2016, whereas the overall education expenditure increased 43%. Education as a whole has been expanding continuously at a faster pace than the Canadian economy, which grew 17% in the period of 2006-16.
  • Fees and contractual services in Ontario saw an abnormal spike between 1996 and 97 going from $59.3 millions to $346.8 millions, a whopping 485% increase. It subsequently dropped back to a more realistic number in 1998, $61.8 millions. One has to wonder whether such spike has any relation to the Ontario teacher’s disputes which culminated in a strike in 1997[1] and partial lockouts in 1998[2]. Further research may be needed.
  • School facilities services cost Canada $5 billions in the year of 2016 alone. This number equates to 8.13% of the total Canadian education budget. For the most part, school facilities services were segmented as such for the year of 2016: salary and wages accounted for $2 billions (41.3%), supply and services accounted for $1.7 billions (34.1%), fees and contractual services represented $745.9 millions (14.8%) and fringe benefits reached $483.8 millions (9.6%).
  • Capital outlay is often seen as money spent to either purchase, upgrade or to extend the life of fixed assets. Since 1973, Canada has spent $71 billions in capital outlay, with $57 billions incurred just in the past two decades. Capital outlay has risen very rapidly throughout the years. Between 1976-86, capital outlay increased by 498% (from $104 millions to $627 millions) and by 230% between 1996-2006 (from $842M to $2.8 billion).
  • Debt charges on capital expenditure often occurs when a government partially or fully finances its fixed asset purchases via public debt. At the start of the records, such expenditure accounted for roughly 9.51% of school expenditure. This number has consistently trended downwards as a percentage of all functions within the budget, reaching a record low of 1.25% by 2016.
  • Since 1973, Canada has spent close to $32.5 billions in food services for schools across the country with $2 billions distributed in 2016 alone. By 2016, the major spenders in this area were Ontario ($987.5 millions), Quebec ($711.3 millions), British Columbia ($194.1 millions) and Saskatchewan ($68.1 millions). The major economic classification that falls under food services in 2016 are: Salaries and wages ($772 millions), supply and services ($758 millions), other operating expenditures ($258 millions), fees and contractual services ($143 millions) and fringe benefits ($113 millions).
  • Since 1973 to 2016, Canada has spent roughly $62 billions in school transportation. From 1973 to the early 90’s, transportation cost saw a rapid growth, moving from $0.25 billion to $1.51 billions by 1992. In the following years, this number started to dwindle until it reached a floor at $1.44 billions by 1998. It then quickly picked for the remaining years, allowing transportation expenditure to account for roughly $2.45 billions, or 3.96% of the expenses throughout 2016.

[1] University of Toronto. (2019, December 2). Canadian Strikes: Ontario. Retrieved January 7, 2020, from https://guides.library.utoronto.ca/c.php?g=250906&p=1680318.

[2] CBC. (1998, November 14). Ontario teachers’ disputes delay school year | CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ontario-teachers-disputes-delay-school-year-1.161275.

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