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Public and private spending on elementary and secondary schools, 2018/2019

Released: 2021-06-01

The total expenditures for public and private elementary and secondary education in Canada rose 1.0% from a year earlier to $58.6 billion in the 2018/2019 academic year, partly because of higher spending on salaries and benefits for educators in public schools. Expenditures by provincial and territorial governments accounted for just over two-thirds (68.3%), or $39.6 billion of this direct source of funds.

Local taxation and other taxes levied by the school boards and local governments accounted for 19.7% of funding, while the remaining funding included student fees and tuition (3.6%), amounts from federal departments (2.8%), and all other private sources, such as revenues from ancillary operations (5.6%).

The share of provincial and territorial government expenditures differ markedly

The share of provincial and territorial government expenditures in public and private elementary and secondary education ranged from just under half (49.3%) in Manitoba to almost all (98.6%) in Prince Edward Island. These regional variations are attributable to different funding mechanisms for the school systems within each jurisdiction.

The largest increase in provincial funding occurred in Quebec, following a decision to reduce the amount paid by homeowners for school tax. The new legislation was made to standardize the tax rate, where homeowners pay the lowest existing rate, regardless of what region they live in. Following this decision, education funding from local taxation and municipal governments decreased by one-quarter (-24.8%) year over year to $1.3 billion in 2018/2019. During this same period, funding from the Quebec provincial government increased by 7.3% to $9.2 billion, partly to make up for the decline in local funding.

Public elementary and secondary school board expenditures continue to grow

Public elementary and secondary schools are funded and operated by provincial and territorial governments. For public Canadian elementary and secondary school boards, expenditures increased by 1.6% from a year earlier to $49.5 billion in 2018/2019. The increase was mainly attributable to higher spending on salaries and benefits for educators working in public elementary and secondary schools.

Educator salaries and benefits accounted for two-thirds (66.9%), or $29.9 billion, of the total operating expenses at public elementary and secondary schools in 2018/2019, up 1.2% from the previous school year. The increase in educator salaries was partially attributable to a 0.6% increase in the national average annual statutory salary for educators with over 10 years of experience in 2018/2019. The growing expenditures for educator salaries may also be due, in part, to the number of educators (+2.5%) growing at over twice the pace of student enrolment in public schools (+1.0%).

Debt charges on school capital expenditures increase

Debt charges on school capital expenditures include the interest on loans and advances, bonds, debentures, and mortgages. These charges increased for the first time in over six years, rising 0.8% year over year to $583 million in 2018/2019. This trend also coincided with a 5.2% increase in annual capital expenditures from 2017/2018.

Annual growth in public school board debt charges was highest in Newfoundland and Labrador (+17.9%) in 2018/2019, where consecutive annual provincial deficits have driven up the province's overall net debt. Newfoundland and Labrador had one of the highest overall net debt and debt charges in 2018/2019, partly because of higher spending and lower oil revenues.

Interactive tool

To further explore public elementary and secondary school board financial statistics in a visual format, visit "Public Elementary and Secondary Education Financial Statistics: Interactive tool." This tool allows users to filter, highlight and select various provincial and territorial aggregations to create custom measures, charts and graphics.

  Note to readers

The financial pressures on the Canadian elementary and secondary school system resulting from the annual spending increase in 2018/2019 may be compounded by the impending constraints of COVID-19 in the 2020/2021 school year.

As local governments ease rules for property tax payments used to support educational institutions and priorities for funding from provincial and territorial governments potentially shift, public school boards may lose access to a portion of their public funding.

Also, the development of online learning platforms and efforts to ensure schools conform to public safety protocols will likely increase both capital and operating expenditures for schools.

Public school board finance data are derived from the Survey of Uniform Financial System – School Boards. The objective of this annual survey is to collect financial information on school boards and districts across Canada.

These financial statistics are collected from every province and territory—with the exception of Nunavut, where data are estimated—and are converted into a standard classification.

Data for this survey are not available at the school board and district level. Public schools are those that are funded and operated by provincial and territorial governments.

Educator salaries and benefits include the total wages and benefits paid to personnel who are directly involved in providing kindergarten, elementary and secondary courses. These personnel include full- and part-time teachers, principals, vice-principals, supply teachers and student assistants.

Also included in the benefit expenditures are costs related to employer contributions to teachers' pension plans, which are partially or entirely paid by school boards and districts in seven provinces and territories, rather than the provincial or territorial governments in other jurisdictions.

Student enrolment figures and educator counts are from the Elementary–Secondary Education Survey.

Annual statutory teachers' salaries in public institutions are derived from the Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective.

Due to the elimination of the Survey of Financial Statistics of Private Elementary and Secondary Schools, data on funding for private elementary and secondary education have been estimated for the reference period 2006/2007 and onward, based on changes to private institutions' enrollment.

All dollar figures are adjusted for inflation unless otherwise specified.

Caution should be taken when comparing provinces and territories directly, since provinces and territories have different funding formulas and structures.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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