Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I Support Public Education

The United Nations views Ontario's funding of a separate Catholic school board as discriminatory [CBC, UN says funding of Catholic schools discriminatory]:

The United Nations human rights committee says Ontario's policy of fully funding Roman Catholic schools, while denying full funding to other religious schools, is discriminatory.

In moving to comply with the ruling Ontario could do one of two things; extend funding to other religious schools, or end funding to Roman Catholic schools.

The United Nations reiterated its concern in 2005. Make no mistake, it is discriminatory. And, there is no such thing as fair discrimination, despite what some Ontario Liberals would have you believe.

Right now, Roman Catholics have three options for education - for those that can afford it, those parents can opt for a private school (religious or secular). If they are less well off, and cannot afford private school, they can still opt for a faith-based education in a publicly funded institution. Finally, if they do not necessarily need that faith-based option, they can choose to send their children to a secular public school.

Even Roman Catholics without children have the option to direct their property tax support to the separate school board. I suppose non-Catholics could do the same, but I'm guessing they would not.

While I primarily support and encourage the strengthening of non-faith based public schools, I do not sense there is a real problem with funding separate public school boards if that's what people want. For the record, I did not support the previous government's move to offer tax credits for private schools. That was wrong.

The reality is, there is not a government in Ontario that is going to stop funding Roman Catholic separate schools. Especially not when a third of Ontario's population is Roman Catholic.

That's why I support John Tory's plan to create new faith-based public schools [Ontario PC Party, For a Better Ontario, Investing in Public Education - PDF]:

John Tory and the PC Party believe that we need to achieve more effective integration of Ontario’s increasingly diverse student population into the mainstream of our province. That’s why we are committed to creating an opportunity for non-Catholic, faith-based schools to choose to join our publicly funded education system the same way Catholic schools have already done. Our policy will apply only to faith-based schools and we believe that the best results would be achieved through direct funding rather than through tax credits.

With this direct public funding will come strict criteria and accountability requirements. These criteria will include the expectation that participating schools:

  • fully incorporate the complete requirements of Ontario’s common curriculum, just as in the Catholic system;
  • participate in Ontario’s standardized testing program and agree to published results; and
  • appropriately address teacher credentialing.

The fear propagated by opponents is that many private schools will turn into public schools to gain "free" tax money and that this will increase segregation. The truth of the matter is that this will not be the case.

Private schools will remain private schools. There would be no benefit for a private school to submit to the provincial authority over curriculum and spending decisions. These new public boards would have to submit to the same budgetary issues that all schools currently face.

What will occur is the same as occurs today with Catholic families. The wealthy will continue to choose between private and public (faith-based or secular), the less well off will choose between secular and faith-based public schools.

This will not increase segregation. Extending funding to Catholic schools did not segregate Catholics from non-Catholics, so I don't even know where to begin with this gem. The bulk of these new school boards will be formed in the Greater Toronto Area, an area that has diverse neighbourhoods as it is. In my neighbourhood growing up, I played with Catholics - yet they went to different schools. My children today play with Catholics, yet they go to different schools. The bottom line is, children will play with who they are going to play with regardless of where their parents send them to school or how much their parents tell them they should integrate. Children will get along with children in their schools and in their neighbourhoods.

Ideally, as I mentioned, there would only be one unified public school system (perhaps offering faith-based elective courses). I think the choice of boards to merge should be up to them, as well.

However, in the interest of fairness, funding more public schools is the best thing. It's always better than discrimination.

Updated: Corrected a link to the Public Education platform for the Ontario Progressive Conservatives.


susansmith said...

In the prov. we actually found 4 public boards of education: english and french speaking public boards and english and french public catholic boards. In Ontario, over 60% of the taxpayers support public school education. Even if you identify as a RC, often you are a non-practicing RC and prefer non-catholic education. Do a wacky funding formula, catholic schools receive alot more money per student than public schools, and yet the majority of students attend public schools. The waste and inefficiency of propping up 4 school systems should be an affront to the taxpayers of Ontario. With the majority of school boards across the province in declining enrolment, keeping half full schools open, redundant infrastructure and duplicate (X2) of services and resources is throwing money away and does not serve the majority of students in Ontario.
To put it in perspective, my school board if it united with its catholic board partner, would save 3.3 million annually, just by getting rid of 5,500 student surplus spaces. Add to this, the elimination of 2 superintendents, and we would save another $350,000. annually. This is savings doesn't include less transportation costs overall.
Moreover, if the public school student spaces was allocated with the funding formula works for the catholic board, we would save 10.2 million annually.
Think what we could do in public education in my area with all this additional money? More programs, better specialized education, no fees, fund playgrounds, more money for classroom, more teachers and ed. assistants.
Instead we prop up this outdated system and waste money and resources. Why? For political reasons. Who will slay this sacred cow?
How do I know. I am a public school trustee who supports one school system of education in both offical languages of Canada.
Can imagine if this is the savings of a small board, can you imagine the savings across Ontario. We don't need more money in education, we need political will.

raciallyprofiled said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

In Ontario, we do not have four huge school boards; rather each of the four are broken down into jurisdictions, with quite a few in the GTA alone. If it was feasible and a cost saver, we could just amalgamate some public boards, French boards, etc... but we don't. The reason is that there is a limit to how many schools one administration can oversee. There is NO cost savings to amalgamating the four boards in the large urban centers!

In the smaller towns where we have schools that are not full, schools need to be encouraged to combine some resources; many areas are already doing this.

Quebec, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and BC all provide funding to all faith-based schools while maintaining great public school systems. All faiths pay education taxes and should be included in the publicly funded education system. Multiculturalism should be about integration, not assimilation - keeping your heritage while developing ties with everyone else. John Tory's plan to fund all faiths who comply with guidelines and regulations within the public school system is reasonable, fair and good for Ontario.

Anonymous said...

Jan, you have an interesting logic: you like public school and say: everybody must come to them. We will save money. You are right! How about going further: everybody drives same car model - National vote will decide model. Do we go further? Same salary for everyone making a good effort?

Jan, people are different and their interests are different. People have different systems of values. It is not up to you, or even to majority to decide who thinks what, as long as it not a danger to society. So, please stop saving your money by making other people, like me, to pay for schools for your kids in addition to paying for mine. If you are a man on integrity, of course.