Ontario’s shameful unfairness must be remedied

The collective, society-wide, national campaign against the Covid pandemic shone an unflattering but illuminating light on Ontario’s relentless discrimination against the families who send their children to independent schools.

Without remorse or any public explanation, Queen’s Park refused to distribute to independent schools their portion of the $763 million federal Covid Safe Return to Class Fund specifically earmarked to help schools protect all Ontario schoolchildren ages 4-18.

The discrimination is simply too much for some independent schools. They can no longer ignore the injustice.  Thus, Toronto Cheder, Metropolitan Preparatory Academy in Toronto, and Woodland Christian High School in Kitchener are suing the Government of Ontario to distribute to independent schools the share of the federal funds owing to them by virtue of the federal government’s funding formula. A court hearing is scheduled for August 9.

The issue at stake in the lawsuit was deftly explained this week by Allan Kaufman and Ira Walfish in an op-ed in the National Post. Kaufman and Walfish are both long-time advocates for fairness in Ontario’s education funding policies. Indeed, Walfish is a director of TeachOn, an advocacy organization for school choice. He submitted an affidavit in this lawsuit.

Kaufman and Walfish wrote: “Ontario received $763 million from the fund, which is proportional to its total population of school-age children, 150,000 of whom are enrolled in independent schools. Since about 25 per cent of Ontario’s schools are independent, that means that one in four Ontario schools were denied the benefit of funds set aside by the federal government for their protection from COVID-19.

“The Trudeau government had paid Ontario its portion of the Safe Return to Class Fund calculated on the inclusion of those 150,000 independent-school students. The Ontario government took the money and then proceeded to exclude those same students, and their schools and staff, from receiving any portion of those funds.

“Why, then, did Ontario count those 150,000 children in the first place, to determine its share of the money from the fund? Was it solely to qualify for a larger share?

“The government had no problem ordering both public and private schools to close during parts of the pandemic, but failed to provide independent schools with the necessary funds to reopen safely when the time came.”

B’nai Brith Canada is an intervenor in the case.

As our followers know, GAJE too will be challenging the ongoing unfair educational funding of the Government of Ontario in court. But our effort will be aimed at remedying Ontario’s broader educational funding policies that relentlessly discriminate against independent religious and other non-religious independent schools other than Catholic schools.

Our lawyers are donating much of their time and expertise. The cost for prosecuting the case, from the trial all the way to the Supreme Court is approximately $250,000. Thus far we have raised about a quarter of the funds. We need your help in raising the balance.

This is our generation’s opportunity to correct the funding discrimination that has existed in Ontario for more than 25 years. If we do not try to end the injustice, who will? It is an imperative that calls upon our consciences. Ontario has shown itself immune to all efforts and moral and other suasion to ask it to change its policies. The courts now are our only viable option.

Please join us in making this happen! Please tell your friends to join in our effort.

Charitable receipts for donations for income tax purposes will be issued by Mizrachi Canada.

To donate to this important cause, please click here.

(For further information, please contact Israel Mida at imida1818@gmail.com)

 •••

Be safe. Be well.

Thank you.

Shabbat shalom.

Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)  

July 30, 2021

The National Post article can be found at:

https://nationalpost.com/opinion/opinion-ontario-shamelessly-withholding-covid-funding-from-private-schools

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