Looking at Ontario’s educational system

Randall Denley, an Ottawa political commentator and former Ontario PC candidate, offered a commentary last week in the National Post on the state of Ontario’s educational system. Our system features four types of publicly funded school boards and as he noted, “only one is accessible to anyone, and all of them are straying from their core mandate.”

His jumping off point was the lawsuit recently launched against the province by Basile Dorion, a former school trustee. Dorion is challenging the constitutionality of the admissions approach of Ontario’s French-language school boards. Denley noted that some French language parents object to the fact that “45 per cent of students in Ontario’s French-language schools don’t have French as their first language.” According to Denley, these parents say that such an admissions policy “waters down the French milieu” in their schools.

The specifics of Dorion’s challenge do not directly apply to the situation of the parents in Jewish schools. Denley does note however that a decision on the Dorion challenge may directly impact the admissions policies of Ontario Catholic schools that are now admitting non-Catholics throughout the province.

The relevant aspects of Denley’s reflections for GAJE are twofold:

• There is clearly a rising tide in Ontario of new expectations among an increasingly diverse population for change and more competition in the education system.

• One of those expectations is for fairness towards all of Ontario’s citizens. In Denley’s words: “The special protection for Catholic and French students becomes more outmoded every year as the province’s demographics change through immigration. The deal to provide education in English and French made sense when almost everyone spoke one of those two languages. Now, nearly 28 per cent of Ontarians have some a different mother tongue. There are more Chinese-language speakers than there are francophones. As well, paying the full cost of education for Catholics but nothing for other religious groups is fundamentally unfair.”

GAJE is not seeking the dismantling of the current four-board structure. Rather, GAJE seeks the fairness of funding that obtains in the other five provinces – in the West and in Quebec – where independent schools receive some measure of public funding for their students too. The result of such fairer funding in those provinces yields better educational results for their students and better financial management for the respective governments.

The Denley commentary can be found at:

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Shabbat Shalom

GAJE July 26, 2019

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