A new report commissioned by the Ontario Secondary Teachers Federation underscores the point that investing in public education is a good idea. The report is divided into two major sections. Jim Stanford writes:
The first uses the Conference Board’s input-output model to simulate the immediate spin-off economic effects of public education spending. Education is a major driver of economic growth and job creation -- yet conservatives insist on treating it solely as a "cost" or "drain," something to be minimized rather than optimized. The Conference Board suggests public education (K-12) accounts for 3.2 per cent of provincial GDP, and 290,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The report then simulated the effects of a 1 per cent increase in provincial spending on education (worth $291 million). It produces a multiplied impact on final GDP (with a final multiplier effect of 1.3). Almost one-third of the incremental expense is returned to government in tax revenues (about 40 per cent of that flowing direct to the provincial level). Wages and salaries (direct and indirect) grow by $275 million, and a total of 4234 additional jobs are created (in schools and administration, in the supply chain, and in downstream consumer goods and services provision).
The second analytical section of the report is more novel: it attempts to identify and quantify some of the major long-run social and fiscal effects of education spending. It points out that high school completion rates have improved dramatically in Ontario over the last 15 years. In 2004 only 68 per cent of Ontario students finished high school. It is important to keep in mind that was at the end of the last eight-year period in office of Ontario’s Conservatives -- these ones led by Mike Harris. Their term was marked by austerity, education cuts, attacks on the autonomy of local school boards, and historic job action by teachers resisting those cuts.
By 2017, after years of sustained growth in education funding, Ontario’s high school completion rate soared to 86 per cent. The Conference Board report reviews extensive published evidence indicating a link between funding levels and school attainment. It is clear that the improvement in Ontario achievement is linked to the increase in school funding after the Harris Conservatives lost power.
The report also illustrates how investment in education cuts other government costs:
The Conference Board report then considers just a few of the fiscal and social benefits of better school attainment. It identifies three main channels: reduced social assistance expenses, reduced health-care costs, and reduced criminal justice costs. In every case, strong correlations are visible in published literature between higher education and better health, income, and criminality results. The report estimates that if high school completion were to drop back down only partially as a result of funding cuts (in their scenario it falls to 83 per cent), additional public fiscal costs would be incurred in just those three areas totaling $3.8 billion over the next 20 years.
Full disclosure. I'm a retired member of the OSSTF. I was in the system during the Harris years, and experienced the disruption of educational services during two strikes. Both were unpleasant affairs. Frankly, I'm glad I'm no longer in the system. Doug Ford is going down the same destructive path Mike Harris trod.
Both men are not well educated. Neither man sees the value of public education. All Ontarians have -- and will -- pay for their ignorance.
Image: Frontier Centre For Public Policy