By Patrick B. Craine

ONTARIO, November 10, 2009 ( – A new report from the education advocacy organization People for Education reveals that up to 335 Ontario schools face closure in the next three years because of declining enrolment, which stems from the province's low birth rate.

According to the organization, 172 elementary and secondary schools will close or are recommended to close by 2012, up from 145, which they reported in May.  Another 163 schools are currently under review.

“This represents the largest increase in school closings since the late 1990's,” the report says, “when, between 1999 and 2004, school boards reacted to education funding cuts by closing over 250 schools across the province.”

They attribute the closures to the massive decline in school enrolment and an outdated government-funding model that has not been adapted to compensate for the lower number of students.

“Since 1997, the average enrolment in Ontario's elementary schools has declined by 15%,” the report states.  “In secondary schools, since 2002, the average enrolment has declined by 14%.”

“Declining enrolment is a phenomena across the country, the result of a decline in the birth rate,” they explain.  “Even Canada's substantial immigration rate does not offset the general aging of our population; proportionally, we have more seniors and fewer young people.”

In fact, Statistics Canada has predicted that student enrolment in elementary and secondary schools will drop by 500,000 in the next 10 years.

“Statistics Canada does not predict any school-age population boom in the foreseeable future,” they continue.  “Enrolment decline is, for the most part, a result of declining fertility rates.”

Statistics Canada reported that the country's fertility rate was 1.66 children per woman in 2007.  While this is the highest rate reported since 1992, and up from 1.59 in 2006, it still remains well below the replacement level of 2.1.

The popular wisdom is that immigration offsets a low birth rate, but according to a July study released by the C.D. Howe Institute, immigration would ultimately have to reach ridiculous levels in order to compensate for the low birth rate.

“This shouldn't be a great surprise,” commented Mary Ellen Douglas of Campaign Life Coalition, “when three and a half million children have been eliminated” through abortion.

“That sort of points to where the declining birth rate is,” she continued.  “That and the contraceptive mentality that we live with in Canada.  So, it shouldn't be a great surprise.”

See related coverage:

300 Schools to Close in Ontario because of Birth Rate Crash 

Ontario Population Crisis: 110 Schools Slated for Closure