Funding for special education in Ontario is currently almost $2.7 billion for about 334,000 students and yet parents hear that there is not enough money. Part of the challenge is that each school board has discretion in how they spend the money. This means that across the province there are 72 different approaches to special education and how funds are spent.
The Ministry has been working for many years to make the allocation of special education funding fair and equitable. They have introduced funding formulas that recognize the diversity of the province, and have attempted to end unfair variations in funding related to past funding rules. The result is a complex funding formula that many find hard to understand.
Special education funding is intended to cover the incremental cost of special education programs and services. Most of special education funding is generated on a per pupil basis (including every student in the school board) with the amount generated to be allocated for special education programs and services. These funds would be allocated to support the programs and services needed by the approximately 16% of students with special education needs.
Education funding starts with the Foundation Grant, which gives every school board a basic level of funding for each student. Additional funding is provided through special purpose grants, including a Special Education Grant, based on specific costs or needs that affect some boards and some students more than others. For more details on education funding check the funding section of the Ministry of Education website.
The Special Education Grant (SEG) funding is protected which means this funding can only be used for those students who require special education programs, services or equipment.
The Special Education Grant has six components:
• Special Education Per Pupil Amount (SEPPA) Allocation – $1.43 billion
• Differentiated Special Education Needs Amount (DSENA) Allocation (formerly High Needs Amount) – $1.05 billion
• Special Equipment Amount (SEA) Allocation – $96.9 million
• Special Incidence Portion (SIP) Allocation – $82.3 million
• Facilities Amount (FA) Allocation – $96.1 million
• Behaviour Expertise Amount (BEA) Allocation – $11.7 million
Special Education Per Pupil Amount (SEPPA)
Just over 50% of special education comes from the Special Education Per Pupil Funding Amount. It is calculated on the basis of total enrollment of students, not just students with special education needs.
Differentiated Special Education Needs Amount (DSENA)
Approximately 38% of special education funding comes from the Differentiated Special Education Needs Amount (DSENA) grant. This is the most complex component of the special education grant as it is based on factors which influence the number of students that each school board has with special education needs. The formula considers factors that may result in higher numbers of students with special education needs or with more complex needs. For more details on the formula and factors, check the Ministry of Education Memo, Special Education Grant Funding 2019-2020.
Special Equipment Amount (SEA)
There are two types of SEA funding, a per pupil amount for technology and a claims process for personal equipment using specific Ministry criteria. The per pupil amount for technology enables school boards to make bulk purchases and board licences, but the equipment is still prescribed for the individual student. Personal equipment is unique to the individual student and is prescribed by professionals including Speech-Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists. For more details see the Special Education Funding Guidelines, Special Equipment Amount, 2019-2020.
Special Incidence Portion (SIP)
The Ministry of Education has established Special Incidence Portion (SIP) funding for additional staff support to ensure the health and safety both of students who have extraordinarily high needs related to their health or behaviour needs. For more details see the Special Education Funding Guidelines, Special Incidence Portion, 2019-2020.
This funding is for education programs in Care and Treatment programs, or Custody and Correctional facilities.
Behavioural Expertise Amount (BEA)
Funds for boards to hire staff with expertise in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) who can build board capacity to support students.
For more details on education funding check the funding section of the Ministry of Education website and the document, Education Funding: A Guide to the Special Education Grant (2021-2022).