Compensation costs — including salaries, benefits and pensions — consume almost three=quarters of all increases in spending on public schools, according to a study by the Fraser Institute.
"Despite claims to the contrary, education funding is not being cut-spending on public schools has increased, with the additional money paying mainly for salaries, pensions and benefits," said Deani Van Pelt, director of the Fraser Institute's Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education.
For example, between 2003 and 2013, compensation costs rose from $30.9 billion to $44.6 billion. The $13.8-billion increase represents 72.2 per cent of the overall $19.1-billion increase in education spending during the 10-year period.
Specifically, pension costs rose by 89 per cent. Pension cost increases were greatest in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta, with increases in all three provinces exceeding 100 per cent. Salaries and wages increased by 42 per cent and benefits increased by 36.2 per cent.
Capital spending on public schools in Canada almost doubled over the 10-year period, to $4.8 billion from $2.4 billion. Three provinces — Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia — account for 92 per cent of the increases, which include a $551-million capital spending increase in Ontario in 2004.
Finally, the overall rise in education spending took place despite a decline in student enrolment. According to a Fraser Institute, study public school enrolment declined by 4.9 per cent — from about 5.3 million students to a just over five million during the 10-year period.
"Canadians want a thriving and well-funded public school system, but increases in education spending have come despite declining enrolment and during an era of deficits in most provinces," said Jason Clemens, Fraser Institute vice-president.