We have been advised that the Government of Ontario refuses to distribute to independent schools any of the monies from the federal government’s Safe Return to Class Fund because such schools operate as “independent businesses or non-profit organizations”.
At a number of levels, the government’s refusal is wrong.
• Even if such a school is an independent business, the issue at hand is enhancing protection for the health and safety of our children due specifically due to Covid. If private, non-school businesses across the country are receiving dedicated Covid relief funds from government, then surely, independent schools endeavouring to protect the health of their children should as well.
• In any event, most, if not all, of the independent schools in the Jewish community at least, are non-profit organizations. They may operate according to sound business principles, but making profit is not their animating mission. Providing education is.
• Every classroom in Ontario needs to be safe for the children learning there. Do public health experts differentiate between the children in publicly-funded schools and those in independent schools? Not likely. Why is the Ministry of Education indifferent to the public health concerns attached to the children in independent schools?
• Are not the children in independent schools as entitled to share in the federally dispensed Covid-related safety funds, especially since the size of those funds incorporated the number of children attending independent schools as well?
• If Ontario’s true purpose in disbursing the federally-sourced Safe Return to Class Fund was to abate public health concerns for “children in all the regions of our province”, as the Minister of Education said last week, then the children in Ontario’s independent schools would also fall under the Fund’s protective canopy. Ottawa did not stipulate that the Safe Return to Class funds must flow only to protect children in public schools.
• The health of Ontario’s children – at all times, but especially so during a pandemic – should hold a higher place of conscience and priority than the address of the school they attend.
Supporting Students Coalition (www.supportingstudents.ca) is providing advice on how to further respond to the Government of Ontario’s stubborn refusal to do the right thing.
Please get involved.
Be safe. Be well. Shabbat shalom.
GAJE, February 12, 2021