Last week Ontario agreed to make Rapid Covid Antigen Testing Kits available to families of independent schools. In light of the rising tide of the Omicron variant, it could hardly have done otherwise. Protecting children’s lives should be high on the provincial government’s priorities irrespective of the schools the children attend.
The government’s ultimately correct decision regarding the rapid testing kits reinforces the remarkable, puzzling indifference of its resolute refusal to distribute any of the $763 million (Safe Return to Class Fund) from the federal government specifically earmarked for helping Ontario schools better cope with the Covid health crisis. Indeed, Ontario’s testing kits decision is a tacit acknowledgement that its unyielding recalcitrance regarding the (Safe Return to Class Fund) was wrong, especially in light of the fact that the federal government arrived at the sum of $763 million by counting all Ontario children ages 4-18 in Ontario schools. Ottawa’s calculation included the 150,000 children in independent schools. The logic directing Queen’s Park to share rapid testing kits should also have compelled it to distribute a pro-rated, fair portion of the Safe Return to Class Fund to the independent schools.
But, as we know, when it comes to the funding of schools, the Government of Ontario’s refusal to direct public funds to independent school is entrenched in reflexive, unthinking policy that many experts, educators, parents and observers view as anachronistic and simply wrong.
As the Cardus think tank pointed out, however, in new, landmark research entitled Funding All Students released three months ago in September of this year, “Ontario’s lack of equitable funding—entirely excluding the independent-school sector from public funds—is out of step with global and even Canadian norms. At least partially funding students in independent schools is the basic standard in democracies and advanced economies, as well as in Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.”
The research disclosed that in Canada outside Ontario, 75 percent of independent schools and 84 percent of independent school students are partially publicly funded. More to the point, Cardus points out, that the cost of finally making Ontario’s public education system truly inclusive, diverse and equitable would cost, at most, less than 1% of the current provincial budget.
“Partial funding of students at independent schools in Ontario could cost as little as $535 million, with independent schools receiving 50 percent of the per-student operating funding rate that public schools get. That would be the equivalent of 0.3 percent of the Government of Ontario’s $186 billion annual budget. Even offering full operational funding to Ontario independent schools would cost less than one percent of the annual budget at an estimated $1.5 billion.”
As Cardus persuasively asserts, the government’s financial ability to do the right thing is not really at issue. Rather, its political will is the stumbling block.
In the absence of such political will at Queen’s Park, families of children in independent schools must appeal to the courts to compel the government to do the right thing. GAJE is planning precisely this. To help underwrite the lawsuit that GAJE is preparing, please click here.
For further information, please contact Israel Mida at firstname.lastname@example.org
Charitable receipts for donations for income tax purposes will be issued by Mizrachi Canada. Your donations will be used for the sole purpose of underwriting the costs of the lawsuit.
Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE),
December 17, 2021