Monday, September 24, 2007

Reality Check: De-funding Ontario's Catholic Schools

Here’s a few things nobody’s talking about when it comes to the whole funding for faith based schools / end funding of Catholic schools debate raging in Ontario:

"Why can’t Ontario do what Newfoundland did and pass a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Catholic school system?"
Because it won’t work here. Newfoundland, pre-amendment, had two systems: Protestant and Catholic. There was no secular, publicly funded alternative, and this was a key rationale for acting at the time. Ontario’s Protestant system self-immolated years ago, and has now morphed into what we call the public system – sort of a lowest common denominator education system. Another key difference is that Newfoundland doesn’t have a middle class – at least not in the same sense as Ontario does. In Ontario, a very significant proportion of parents already send their kids to some form of private or independent school, whereas in Newfoundland that opportunity is simply not there in any comparable sense. The new secular system works in Newfoundland, therefore, because parents have no choice; they have to send their kids there. In Ontario, where private education is a thriving, mature enterprise, parents could more easily pull their kids out of a secular system and find a mature, privately funded parallel system ready to expand and absorb them at all price points. De-funding Catholic schools in Ontario, therefore, would mean that parents seeking a Catholic education could simply withdraw entirely from the public system.

"But where would Catholic kids go if their schools were secularized? There’d really be no capacity anywhere else that quickly."
Not true. Do you know who owns the schools in Ontario – bricks, mortar and land? In the public system, schools are owned by public school boards. In the Catholic system, however, it’s a mix: some are owned by Catholic boards, but many others are only run by the Board under a lease. These schools are, in fact, owned lock, stock and barrel by religious orders of the Roman Catholic Church. If a constitutional amendment were to be enacted on Monday, on Tuesday all of this educational capacity (schools, land, textbooks, and many teachers) would become de facto private schools as leases were ripped up all over Ontario. The point not to be missed here is that de-funding Catholic schools would have the immediate effect of shrinking the public system. Fewer, not more, students would be in public schools in a post-constitutional amendment Ontario.

Just a few things to think over before October 10, or while reading anything the CCLU prints.

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