Ontario politicians and editorial writers have contended for years that public funding for independent schools, including Jewish day schools, would harm the public schools. They say that parents would withdraw their children from public education and “fragment” the system.
Is this true? We at GAJE don’t think so. Consider the five Canadian provinces that provide funding to Jewish and other independent schools. Are their public school systems failing? Not at all.
First, let’s look at enrollment. In Ontario, in 2014-2015, 94% of children were in the public system. In Alberta, which funds independent schools, the public system attracted an even higher proportion, 96%. In Saskatchewan it was 98% and Manitoba 92%. Quebec 88% and BC 87%. Public education is holding its own in all five provinces. (The Fraser Institute, “Where our students are educated: Measuring student enrolment in Canada, 2017” at https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/where-our-students-are-educated-measuring-student-enrolment-in-canada-2017.pdf)
And what about quality? The Conference Board of Canada publishes Canada-wide comparisons of public education results. BC, Alberta and Ontario all rate at the top, earning A+ scores for high school attainment. (Conference Board of Canada, “Provincial and Territorial Ranking: Education and Skills,” June 2014, at http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/Provincial/Education.aspx)
These are the facts. Harm to the public system is an “alternative fact,” not reality.
Reality is the affordability burden on Jewish families in Ontario.
In each of the five provinces that fund Jewish schools, among others, the public contribution ranges from 50% to 60% of per pupil operating costs in public schools or the local school district. That makes a huge difference to affordability.
Here are elementary school tuition fees for Jewish day schools in Toronto and in cities where the province contributes:
- Toronto $17,000
- Vancouver $12,125
- Calgary $8,350
- Winnipeg $10,150
- Montreal $11,500
GAJE is determined to hold Ontario to account for its unfair treatment of Jewish day schools and families. This must change.