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Education: Spending has gone up as number of students has gone down

Montreal, Wednesday, August 30, 2017 – Over the past ten years, public spending on education has jumped while the number of students in school was falling, and academic results have barely improved, shows an Economic Note published today by the MEI.

From 2006-2007 to 2015-2016, spending increased by 14% adjusted for inflation, while the number of students fell by 6.5%. Real spending per student therefore grew from $10,791 to $13,162, an increase of 22% in ten years. “That’s a lot of money,” says Germain Belzile, Senior Associate Researcher at the MEI and co-author of the publication. “If spending per student had remained stable, total government spending would have been $2.3 billion lower in 2015-2016.”

Where did most of this money go? Into teacher salaries, and into the government’s employee pension plan payments, the latter having jumped by nearly 50% over this same period, again adjusted for inflation. Another factor having contributed to the increased spending is the rapid growth in the proportion of students with social maladjustments, learning disabilities, or handicaps, which gives schools access to additional funding. The reduction in the student-teacher ratio, from 14.4 to 13.2, has also had a considerable impact. “This is the equivalent of increasing the number of teachers by nearly 10%, without adding a single student,” adds Germain Belzile.

Moreover, this increased spending seems to have had little effect on the academic results of students. The rate of graduation and qualification went up slightly in the province (by 7 percentage points), but these numbers need to be put in context. “A non-negligible portion of the improved graduation rate is related to the creation of new diplomas, whose value has been called into question by some observers,” points out Alexandre Moreau, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI and co-author of the publication.

“It seems clear that parents and taxpayers more generally are paying more but getting less and less for their money,” says Michel Kelly-Gagnon, President and CEO of the MEI. “It’s time to re-examine the way we do things, reducing bureaucracy, increasing competition, and giving parents greater freedom of choice. We need to make sure that each new dollar spent on education contributes to improving the performance of the educational system, and the future prospects of our children, which is not at all what is happening now,” concludes Mr. Kelly-Gagnon.

The Economic Note entitled “Education in Quebec: Where Does the Money Go?” was prepared by Germain Belzile, Senior Associate Researcher at the MEI, and Alexandre Moreau, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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Interview requests: Karl-Javid Lalonde-Dhanji, Analyst and Coordinator, Current Affairs, MEI / Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2224 / Cell: 514-824-8948 / Email: klalonde@iedm.org

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