With the last GAJE update of 2017, we wish to draw the Government of Ontario’s attention to the attitudes of Canadians toward government funding of independent religious schools.
According to a recent study conducted by the think tank Cardus and the Angus Reid Institute, some 61 per cent of Canadians support full or partial government funding for independent religious schools.
The chief conclusion of the study was encapsulated in the headline “Canadians are clear. They prefer a diversity of options for educating our children.” This majority preference also sits well with research that points to the benefits of a diversity of educational options. A multiplicity of educational offerings creates competition within the overall provincial system and this, in turn, raises the standard throughout and especially in the public sector.
One of the highlights of the study speaks to and directly refutes a recurring argument against public funding – partial or full – for independent religious schools, namely, that such funding threatens the public system and therefore too the inclusive, tolerant, cooperative, multi-cultural functioning of our society spawned by a healthy public school system. Yet, the study found that “religious school graduates…exhibit a wide variety of civic contributions. Compared to public school graduates, for example, they donate more money, are more likely to volunteer for arts and cultural organization, are more willing to give blood, and are as likely to be politically active as their public school peers.”
The article reported that “five provinces also provide funding for religious schools in the independent school sector: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec… Funding for independent schools doesn’t cover costs for capital such as buildings and land, but it does match anywhere from 35 to 80 percent of what is offered, on average, to a local public school for the education of a student.” (Our emphasis)
The Fraser Institute has compared the maths-and-sciences outcomes of students in British Columbia and in Ontario. BC students outperformed their Ontario counterparts. (One of those studies was cited in a previous GAJE update.)
Is Ontario less financially able than our five sister provinces to partially fund independent religious schools, say from 35 to 80 per cent of what is offered to a local public school for the education of a student? We think not.
Therefore, let us state the obvious. It is simply a matter of political will.
There is no political will in the current Government of Ontario to adopt at least some measure of fairness and justice in educational funding in Ontario – even though it appears that more than 60 percent of the population are in favour. Perhaps Ontario could catch up to the majority?
The study was reported in the Dec. 14 edition of the National Post.