FAQs

Who is responsible for education in Ontario?

Education is a provincial government responsibility in Canada. In Ontario, education is governed principally by the Education Act and its regulations which set out duties and responsibilities of the Minister of Education and of school boards, school board supervisory officers, principals, teachers, parents and students. Ontario's 72 District School Boards operate the province's publicly-funded schools. They are made up of 31 English-language public boards, 29 English-language Catholic boards, 4 French-language public boards, and 8 French-language Catholic boards. As well, a small number of Ontario schools are operated by School Authorities. The School Authorities manage special types of schools, such as schools in hospitals and treatment facilities, and schools in remote and sparsely-populated regions.

Who pays for education in Ontario?

Education in the province’s elementary and secondary schools is paid for by Ontario’s taxpayers through both property taxes and government grants. The amount of funding that each school board receives is based on a provincial funding formula which includes a range of factors that reflect the circumstances of each board. Education is the second largest portion (after Health) of the Ontario government’s budget and the level for 2014-2015 is set at $24.5 billion.

What is a School Board?

There are four different kinds of school boards in Ontario:

  • English language public school boards
  • English language Catholic school boards
  • French language public school boards
  • French language Catholic school boards

A school board is a body that operates the province’s publicly funded schools and is governed by its publicly elected members – school board trustees. Ontario’s publicly funded school boards provide high standards in programming and ensure that there are supports and resources to help all students to reach those standards. The responsibilities of school boards are set out in the Education Act and cover such matters as: promotion of student achievement and well-being; effective education programs, effective stewardship of the board’s resources; development of a multi-year plan to achieve the board’s goals; policies and organizational structures that promote the board’s goals and provide a positive school climate where students can thrive and succeed.

For more information see: Making a Difference for Kids and Good Governance Guide

What do School Board Trustees do?

School Board Trustees are responsible for identifying the needs and priorities of their community and for ensuring these are considered in the decisions of the board that result in practical educational opportunities for students. Decisions are made by the whole board not by an individual trustee. Trustees set the budget for the whole school board district as well as policies that describe to parents, the public and the board’s staff how the board operates and how services will be provided. The board of trustees is accountable to the Province of Ontario. They are also accountable to their communities and must consult with parents, students and supporters of the board when developing the board’s multi-year plan. Trustees are expected to attend a range of community meetings including school council meetings and to respond to the concerns of parents and community members.

For more information see:Making a Difference for Kids and Good Governance Guide

How do I find out who is running to be a school trustee in my area?

A key source of information about candidates in the 2014 Municipal and School Board Elections is the 2014 Elections (link) hub of this website. Information is also available from your school board and from your municipality.

Am I eligible to vote?

To be eligible to vote in a school board election in Ontario, you must be aged 18 or older and a Canadian citizen.

If you are a resident of a municipality, you are eligible to vote for school trustee. If you are the owner or tenant (or spouse of an owner or tenant) of residential property in a municipality, you are eligible to vote for school trustee. Note: School boards can cover large areas of the province and include many municipalities. You are only allowed to vote for the same school board once.

There are four different kinds of school boards in Ontario:

English-language public school board

This is the default – unless you are qualified to vote for a separate or French board, you will vote for the English public school board in your area.

English-language separate (Catholic) school board

You must be a Roman Catholic, and you must be a separate school board supporter or the spouse of a separate school board supporter. If your spouse is a Roman Catholic and you are not, you are not eligible.

French-language public school board

You must be a French-language rights holder, and you must be a supporter (or the spouse of a supporter) of the French-language public school board.

French-language separate (Catholic) school board

You must be a Roman Catholic and a French-language rights holder, and you must be a supporter (or the spouse of a supporter) of the French separate school board. If your spouse is a Roman Catholic and you are not, you are not eligible.

“Supporter” refers to which school board the school portion of your property taxes goes to. The default is the public school system. In order to be a separate (Catholic) school supporter you must direct your taxes to the separate (Catholic) school system. Contact the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (1-866-296-MPAC (6722)) for more information.

“French-language rights holder” is set out in section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and refers to the right of citizens whose first language is French to receive educational instruction in French.

When and where do I vote?

October 27, 2014 is Municipal and School Board Elections Day in Ontario. Your municipality may have one or more days of advance voting. On voting day, voting places must be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Your council may pass a bylaw allowing a voting place to open early on voting day.

Voting places are chosen by your municipal clerk. Schools, community centres and places of worship are commonly used. The Act requires that all voting places be accessible to electors with disabilities. For more information on voting in your municipality, please contact your municipal clerk.

For complete information please see: 2014 Voters Guide at: http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=10337.

How do I get a say in public education in my community?

As a resident in your school board district you have a right to attend public meetings of the school board. If you wish to address the school board, you may contact the administration offices of the board to find out the process for being a delegate at a board meeting. The local school board trustee regularly communicates with constituents and seeks input when the board is developing policies, making major decisions or determining its multi-year strategic plan. These communications may take the form of a trustee e-newsletter, social media or postings on the trustee’s own website. Opportunities for input are also available through your local school council or through the board’s Parent Involvement Committee. As a constituent you may contact your trustee directly to raise concerns or discuss issues of interest.

Parents/Guardians FAQs

How do I find my local School or School Board?

You can find your local school by going to the Ontario Ministry of Education website at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/sbinfo/. If you already know your school board, you may contact them directly to ask about the schools in your area.

How do I find out how well my local school is doing?

Most schools have their own individual website where they post information that describes the school and provides program and student achievement information. Your local trustee will also be able to provide you with information about the schools in your neighbourhood.

How can I get involved in my local school?

Each school has a school council which meets regularly. The council itself has both parent/guardian and community members and meetings are open to the community. They provide a forum through which parents and other members of school communities can contribute to improving student achievement and school performance. School councils have an advisory role and they enhance the accountability of the education system to parents. They make recommendations to the school principal and the school boards on any matter. Principals and school boards, in turn, must consult with school councils on a variety of matters that affect student learning. They must also consider recommendations made by school councils and report back to the councils on how they plan to act on their advice. (See: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/general/elemsec/council/council02.pdf )

Schools also have a volunteer program that provides parents and community members with opportunities to get involved in the life of the school.

Your local school board trustee will welcome your questions and suggestions.

What does my local School Board Trustee do to represent me?

The local school board trustee regularly communicates with parents and guardians and seeks input when the board is developing policies, making major decisions or determining its multi-year strategic plan. These communications may take the form of a trustee e-newsletter, social media, online journals, blogs or postings on the trustee’s own website. The trustee is often your first point of contact when you have questions or concerns about your local school. While individual trustees do not have the authority to direct board staff to undertake any particular action, they can help in answering questions, finding solutions or facilitating interaction with the school and board administration. As a parent/guardian you may contact your trustee directly to raise concerns or discuss issues of interest.