Exploring the financial costs of French Immersion proved to be an eye opening task. There are two main factors involved. First is the funding the province provides for the different amount of minutes per day which each pupil spends studying French or studying in French. The second is the cost of transportation for students in French Immersion or its little sister, Extended French. Extended French is a program offering one or more subjects in French.
The grants provided by the Ontario government are the same regardless of the board. I will keep to the elementary grants; the secondary grants differ only as secondary students and their needs differ, the one exception being that secondary students get a larger base grant (larger by 25%)*. There is a basic per pupil grant of $4,045.80. The school receives a grant, too, for the cost of principals and office staff. On top of the base grant come grants for special needs; French is included as a special need.
The amount of the French grant increases depending on the number of minutes per day a pupil spends studying French or studying in French. The allocation for an average of: 20 – 59 minutes (Core, Grades 4 to 8) is $270.82
60 – 149 minutes (Extended, Grades 4 to 8) is $308.55
150 minutes or more (Immersion, Grades 1 to 8) is $345.18
75 minutes or more (Immersion, JK and K) is $345.18
Bear in mind that these allocations are on top of the per pupil grant. No other subject, to my knowledge, receives an extra allocation. My information above on grants is from Technical Paper 2008–09, Revised October 2008, Ontario Ministry of Education. My best guess is that part of the reason behind the grants is the cost of materials in French.
This is where it gets very interesting. The Peel Board on its web site states:
The budget to schools for teachers, instructional supplies
and equipment for French immersion is exactly the same
as for the regular school program.
(Get the Facts: Cost of French Immersion
The same site went on to explain that the board receives roughly $1,789,000/year for the elementary French Immersion students. Since the cost of bussing those 5,160 students is $1,400,000, the implication is that the board comes out ahead. And if their only cost for French Immersion is transportation, which comes out to $271 a head, the Peel Board is providing FI at the same cost as the funding for Core French. Please note that the funding is all going on transportation.
All my research at the Ministry of Education site could not tell me whether school boards are allowed to use savings from one envelope of grants such as French to top up another envelope of grants such as transportation or vice versa. However, I did find that information in the minutes of the French as a Second Language Advisory Committee Minutes, Feb. 5, 2008 for the Toronto District School Board. http://www.tdsb.on.ca/wwwdocuments/parents/parent_groups/docs/FSLACMin080205.pdf
As the staff member explained to the committee members, the boards are under no obligation to use their FSL grants from the ministry for French language teaching. At the TDSB much of it is “used for preparation time delivered by Core French”. I wonder whether it is used in other boards to cover the cost of bussing French Immersion students. Only the PDSB distinguished the cost of transportation for its FI students. The grants at the PDSB and TDSB must be modest amounts compared to the Ottawa Carleton District School Board. PTSD has 5% of their elementary students enrolled in FI, TDSB has 2.5% in FI and OCDSB has 38% enrolled in FI. It is a lot of students and a lot of money.
It is not clear that all French grant money is transferred to other envelopes, however, of the three boards I looked at, only the Peel Board distinguished the French Immersion grants from the regular French grants and only the Toronto Board pointed out that French grants did not have to be spent on the teaching of French. There may be more information on all three of these boards’ web sites, but it was not easy to find.
This brings me to a few question: Are school boards pushed to dipping into the French envelope by the tightening of the purse strings or has it been ever thus? Is French Immersion a money maker for school boards?
Would parents rethink placing a child in French Immersion if they though that the cost of transportation would be the same as the extra money available to enhance the French program? How would parents feel if they knew that the extra funds were largely being diverted? Bear in mind that teachers’ salaries are already covered by another, separate grant.
If one assumes that most or all of the grant money for French Immersion, Extended French and Core French is being redirected regularly how much better could each of these programs be if the money was actually spent on the programs? How much less translating and photocopying would the teachers have to do? How much more audio-visual equipment would be available to all French teachers? Would there be any Core French teachers left teaching their program from a cart and preparing at a desk in the staff room? Would boards be able to afford French monitors from Quebec to assist in enlivening the Core French classes?
I keep thinking I must be missing something. I would love to hear from people who know more than I do on the subject!
S. D. Scaiff
For more information on French Immersion and transportation, see the Canadian Parents For French (Ontario chapter)’s Study of Transportation to French Immersion and Extended French Programs in Ontario School Boards, written by Fran Sutton in 2001
© Sheila Diane Scaiff and Teachers Outside the Box, 2008. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sheila Diane Scaiff and Teachers Outside the Box with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.