Earlier this week, the government of Saskatchewan invoked the rarely used notwithstanding clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to overturn a ruling of the Court of Queen’s Bench that held it was unconstitutional for the Saskatchewan government to pay for the education of non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools.
The government acknowledged that the invocation of the “nothwithstanding” clause was one of last resort. But it considered the circumstances warranted it.
Premier Brad Wall justified the use of the clause in order to protect school choice for parents. “We support school choice, including public, separate and faith-based schools,” said Premier Wall. “We will defend school choice for students and parents. By invoking the notwithstanding clause we are protecting the rights of parents and students to choose the schools that work best for their families, regardless of their religious faith.”
The province’s Minister of Education, Don Morgan, had previously said that the government believes it is important to support a variety of independent schools outside the public and Catholic school systems.
Any notwithstanding clause declaration expires after five years, but it can be re-enacted indefinitely.
We applaud the principled educational funding policy of the government of Saskatchewan. We hope the government of Ontario has taken notice. By comparison, Ontario’s preferential, discriminatory educational funding policies are shameful.
Recommended outcomes of Jewish education
In an article that canvasses that past three decades of communal mobilization on behalf of Jewish education, that appeared recently in Gleanings: Dialogue on Jewish Education from the Davidson School at the Jewish Theological Seminary – Dr. Barry W. Holtz offers a suggestion about the preferred outcomes of Jewish education.
“First, Jewish learning is an end in itself. Our tradition values education as one of the most essential aspects of being a Jew. About that there is no question, no matter what its impact may be on later Jewish identity. Second, giving young people the best possible Jewish education increases the likelihood that being Jewish will speak to them in their personal lives. It can become a source of values and ideas, some of which will run counter to the weaknesses of the culture in which we live. We want to cultivate those dispositions in the people that we educate, and we believe as educators that Judaism as a religion and Jewish culture in its broadest sense offers a tradition of wisdom and practice that can make a difference in an individual’s life and in bettering the state of the world.
“In order to maintain the continuity of the Jewish people, the only intervention over which we have any control as a community is that of education. We can’t legislate who will marry whom. We can’t dictate where people will live and who their friends will be. But we can work toward the goal that education will have an impact on the lives of learners.”
THE ROLE OF PHILANTHROPY
“Finally, we can wonder about the evolution of Jewish philanthropy in the years ahead. Will Jewish education remain high on the list of philanthropic concerns if it can’t be seen as moving the needle on intermarriage? Will Jewish foundations and local federations still invest in education? Indeed, will community federations— now more than a century old—continue to play a central role in collecting and allocating Jewish charitable dollars? If so, which institutions and programs will be favored with support? We do know that Jewish education will have a role to play in defining the future, even if that future ends up looking very different from the world we live in today. How great a role it will play may depend on what counts as an important outcome to foundations and community funders and their willingness to envision a vital role for Jewish education.”
It is GAJE’s hope and prayer that community funders will indeed envision and help bring about Jewish education’s vital role for the Jewish permanence of our community.
We are determined to help make it so.