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Education Policy

Music Education Policy and Non-Policy: Provincial Budget, Private Fundraising, Specialized Teachers and Curriculum

Policy of any type can be daunting. But understanding how it functions and impacts real-life programming is essential to uncovering areas of weakness in music education, and explaining why music programs can be so vastly different. By condensing and explaining key aspects of Music Education Policy and providing resources for further learning Bandology hopes to educate readers and promote advocacy that calls for specific policy changes.

Accountability for Education Funding

  • The Ministry of Education is accountable for the public education system as a whole and for making policy decisions and curriculum decisions as well as determining funding for school boards. 
  • School boards are responsible for allocating the funds supplied by the Ministry of Education to provide educational services in schools, pay teachers and purchase required materials. 
  • It is the responsibility of school boards to ensure the effective use of resources – hopefully through thoughtful, transparent budgeting, aligned with a focus strategy. 
  • Boards distribute funding to schools equitably, based on student enrollment. Schools with higher student populations will receive greater funding. There are specialized grants available for additional funding based on the population of students from low socio-economic households, minority ethno-racial backgrounds and/or disabilities (Government of Ontario, 2022).
  • Of the 2023-2024 Grants for Student Needs, none address music or arts funding (Ministry of Education, 2023).

Alternative Funds: Taxation

  • Part of property taxes collected in the community are pooled together to supplement the provincial budget. The funds do not go directly to individual schools.
  • “For 2023, the tax rate for school purposes for residential property is prescribed as 0.153 percent of the assessed value of the property” (Education Act (1990), O. Reg. 400/98). Education Property Tax collection makes up about 30% of the education budget annually (Follert, 2022).

Alternative Funds: Fundraising

  • School generated funds can be raised and collected in the school or broader community. These funds are administered by the school principal and are raised or collected from sources other than the school boards operating budget, such as parents. 
  • For example, extra-curricular band equipment is explicitly listed as an approved item to purchase with school generated funds (Government of Ontario, 2022, School Fundraising Guideline).

Fundraising Discrepancies

  • In schools with a high population of low-income household students, the median amount of school generated funds nearly half of the funds raised by schools with high-income student populations. The amount fundraised per pupil differed considerably: the average was $27 per student in high poverty schools compared to $44 in low poverty schools. 
  • 99% of elementary schools and 87% of secondary schools report fundraising (People for Education, 2018).

Curriculum: Elementary

  • Students receive music instruction from their classroom teachers or from another teacher in the school. This can be a qualified music specialist, itinerant music teacher or a teacher who also teaches other specialist classes. 
  • There are no special qualifications required of teachers to teach the elementary music curriculum in Ontario. 
  • Each school’s music program is developed in response to teacher interest and ability, school goals and resources. 
  • Music in elementary schools can take many different forms: vocal/choir, instrumental, recorder, ukulele or guitar, technology, percussion or a combination. 
  • Some schools have the opportunity for students to receive instruction from an Itinerant Music Instructor. These are teachers with a music background who travels to various schools to provide enriched student opportunities and instruct them on how to play certain instruments (Toronto District School Board, 2023).
  • Therefore, music education in elementary schools is highly variable.

Music Programming Specific to Secondary Schools

  • Both Ontario elementary and secondary school teachers require a Bachelor of Education. Elementary teacher candidates in Ontario are required to take only one course in the arts. However, Ontario’s Arts curriculum requires in-depth technical knowledge, making it a challenge for teachers without specialized arts training (People for Education, 2017). 
  • Ontario secondary school teachers are additionally required to have a Bachelor’s degree in Music or Music Education. These specialist secondary teachers are typically strong advocates for their music program, and work hard to update inventory, provide complex and engaging activities, and challenge student abilities. 
  • Secondary schools have seen a decline in music enrollment, particularly in grade 9. High school music teachers believe this is due to barriers to full music education in elementary schools, including access to specialist music teachers, lack of program equality and the pandemic. 
  • Secondary school teachers cite funding as a major issue for music programs. Funding prevents the replacement of old, broken instruments and also prevents students from engaging in performance activities both inside and outside the school. 
  • The presence of specialist music teachers plays an important role in the success of secondary music programs versus elementary music programs, which are not required to have (Fitzpatrick, 2013).

Arts and Location

Funding Teacher Salaries

  • Teacher unions and the Ministry of Education work together to determine pay bands for teacher salaries. Principals receive a budget from the school board to fund these salaries. Principals decide how to allocate educational assistants and teachers, and whether their school can have staff like a dedicated music teacher (People for Education, 2023).

Case Study: HDSB



  • Private fundraising and the presence of a specialist music teacher are not related concepts. However, together, both impact the music programming available to students and shows how two schools just over 20km from each other have vastly different experiences with music education.

Key Issues, Recommendations and Next Steps

Key Issues:

  • Broad curriculum, lack of accountability, lack of specialized music teachers, unequal private fundraising leads to unequal music programming. 


  • Stronger curriculum, testing/accountability measures, mandating specialized music teachers, required resources in curriculum. 

What can you do?

  • Bandology has created advocacy templates with key information on who to contact, steps for writing an effective email, contact lists, and an example email! Click here for more info.

References and Continued Learning

  1. Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2: O. Reg. 400/98: TAX MATTERS – RATES FOR SCHOOL PURPOSES. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/980400#:~:text=1.assessed%20value%20of%20the%20property.
  2. Fitzpatrick, L. (2013). Factors Affecting Music Education in Ontario Secondary Schools: Teachers’ Perspectives. Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 1282. Retrieved from https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/1282utm_source=ir.lib.uwo.ca%2Fetd%2F1282&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages
  3. Follert, J. (September 14, 2022). Election Explainer: How does education funding work in Ontario? Durham Region. Retrieved from https://www.durhamregion.com/news/election-explainer-how-does-education-funding-work-in-ontario/article_973a06bc-d47a-587b-adb5-355d48fff639.html#:~:text=Revenue%20to%20support%20education%20funding,the%20other%2070%20per%20cent.
  4. Government of Ontario. (June 28, 2022). School Funding: A Guide for Parents. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/page/school-funding-guide-parents#:~:text=How%20your%20school%20is%20funded,out%20by%20the%20funding%20formula
  5. Government of Ontario. (June 28, 2022). School Fundraising Guideline. Retrieved from https://www.ontario.ca/page/school-fundraising-guideline
  6. Ministry of Education. (2023). Grants for Student Needs Projections for the 2023-24 School Year. Retrieved from https://files.ontario.ca/edu_6/edu-2023-24-school-board-projections-en-2023-04-13.pdf
  7. Ontario Music Educators Association. (2016). Disturbing Trends: Recent Data on Music Education in Ontario. Retrieved from https://www.omea.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/advocacy-p4e-reaction-2016-Disturbing-Trends.pdf
  8. People for Education. (2016). The Geography of Opportunity: Whats Needed for Broader Student Sucess (Annual Report on Ontario’s Publicly Funded Schools 2016). Toronto: People for Education. Retrieved from https://peopleforeducation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/P4E-Annual-Report-2016.pdf
  9. People for Educaiton. (2017). The Arts. Retrieved from https://peopleforeducation.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/P4E-arts-report-2017-1.pdf
  10. People for Education. (2018). Fundraising and fees in Ontario’s Schools. Toronto: People for Education. Retrieved from https://peopleforeducation.ca/report/fundraising-and-fees-in-ontarios-schools/#:~:text=In%20high%20poverty%20schools%2C%20the,%2444%20in%20low%20poverty%20schools.
  11. People for Education. (2023). How Education is Funded in Ontario. Retrieved from https://peopleforeducation.ca/public-education-in-ontario/how-education-is-funded/#:~:text=The%20school%20board&text=Boards%20distribute%20funding%20for%20teachers,they%20have%20special%20education%20needs.
  12. Toronto District School Board. (2023). Elementary School: Music. Retrieved from https://www.tdsb.on.ca/Elementary-School/The-Classroom/Subjects-and-Learning/music


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