A story appeared in The Globe and Mail this week that reports upon the increasing enrolment by non-Catholic parents of their children in Catholic schools. The Globe reported that the number of documented non-Catholic students (in Catholic elementary schools) reached almost 11,000, an 18-percent increase in the past four years. The figure may indeed be higher because, in some cases, as the article notes, the religion of the students may not actually be known.
Ever since public funding in Ontario was extended to Catholic high schools in the late 1980’s, Catholic high schools must accept any student who wishes to enrol. Elementary schools however may turn non-Catholic children away.
According to the article, “each student enrolled in an English Catholic elementary school comes with about $12,000 in annual government funding.”
Separate school boards, the article notes, are not necessarily comfortable with the ongoing publicity surrounding the increase in non-Catholic children in their elementary schools, though not with the actual increase itself. “The separate system is keenly aware that the shift could be viewed poorly,” the Globe reporter wrote.
And indeed, in many circles, it is.
The competition between the two school systems to attract students is causing Laurie French, president of the Ontario Public Schools Boards’ Association to worry about the viability of schools – presumably public schools – in small communities
Leonard Baak of Stittsville, was apparently so upset by the accelerated drift of non-Catholic students into Catholic elementary schools that he founded the lobby group OneSchoolSystem.org.
All of which calls into question the accuracy of the statement by Ontario’s Education Ministry to The Canadian Jewish News earlier this month. “Our focus remains on maintaining the current, stable, publicly funded education system… There are no plans to revisit the issue of funding private schools.”
The Globe and Mail article shows the current system is not as stable as the government asserts. Nor is it even remotely fair as the government of Ontario cannot assert.
Ontario hides behind the 22-year-old decision of the Supreme Court to justify its ongoing discriminatory educational funding. Other provinces have advanced past that decision to incorporate a measure of fairness into their educational funding policies. It is a great pity and a greater shame that Ontario, the richest province of all, cannot find a way to do the same.