Covid-19 shines clear light on Ontario’s unfair educational funding

Time and again, GAJE, has pointed out that apart from the Atlantic provinces, all of the other provinces contribute funds to the operating budgets of independent schools. Ontario, the largest by population and, one can still say, the wealthiest province, is the outlier. Our provincial government does not contribute any funds to the operational costs of independent schools. Ontario’s educational funding policies are anachronistic. Worse, they perpetuate unfairness and injustice that can no longer be justified in the year 2020.

The unforeseen, horrible intrusion into our lives of Covid-19 shines a clear, high-intensity beam onto that ongoing funding injustice.

We understand that the government of Ontario – along with all governments in Canada, indeed throughout the caring, humane and compassionate world – have been forced to take unprecedented health, economic, and social measures to cope with and ultimately vanquish the pandemic. We understand that along with the unrelenting strain on individuals and the unceasing pressure on our society there has been a concomitant strain and pressure on governmental expenditures and budgeting. But the need to allocate funds on an emergency basis does not absolve the government from doing so fairly, justly, equitably. And yet that has been Ontario’s approach.

Need we state the obvious? Covid-19 is a public health crisis. The health hazards from the virus threaten and menace children in all of Ontario’s schools, not only those in the public schools. Ontario’s emergency educationally-oriented Covid funds should be allocated to protect and better secure all children in all Ontario schools. But they are not.

Adding to the unjustifiability of Ontario’s utter refusal to abate the Covid health stresses for independent schools, is the fact that the Province is also refusing to disburse to the independent schools, funds that were given to the province by the federal government based upon a head count of all Ontario’s children between ages 4 – 18. (Our emphasis)

Edvance Christian Schools Association, an Ontario-based association whose mission is to foster excellence in Christian elementary and secondary schools, has noticed the unfairness of the government’s funding policy. It too cavils at the injustice. In a compelling document entitled, No Child Unprotected, that will underpin a public education effort on this issue, Edvance notes, that federal funding received by province for distribution for all students is about $350 per student and other provinces are distributing their allocated per-child amount to all students regardless of the type of school.

Some 2,165,132 students were enrolled in Ontario in 2018, among whom were 125,000 children in independent schools. Relative to the entire Education budget, being fair to all Ontario children should not be seen as a fiscal burden. Trustworthy, credible, reliable, communal organizations of long standing are available to help the government deliver the appropriate funds to the independent schools on behalf of their respective students.

The pandemic does not discriminate among children or schools. That Ontario does, is a shame.
We urge individuals to join in Edvance’s cri de Coeur. (For more information about No Child Unprotected check the Edvance website, at https://www.edvance.ca.) And we urge individuals to contact their Members of the Provincial Parliament to seek Covid protection funds for children in independent schools too.

•••

Be safe. Stay safe. Be well. Stay well. Be strong. Stay strong.

Shabbat shalom.

GAJE

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