For more than seven years, GAJE has called public attention to the discrimination at the heart of Ontario’s system of educational funding. That the public treasury supports the education of one religious group in the province to the exclusion of all others is deeply offensive to conscience. It is also an affront to our society’s professed loyalty to the protection of the human rights that are enshrined in the sinew and bone of our democratic values.
Or it should be. But the provincial government seems indifferent to the injustice it continues to mete out to a large number of Ontarians. Despite the patent unfairness of the current system, despite the evidence that the government’s approach to public education no longer represents the best educational systemic funding practices, despite the evidence that the government’s approach may actually impede higher educational outcomes, Queen’s Park refuses to change its anachronistic, hardscrabble ways.
But many others, expert in the discipline of Education, increasingly point to the obvious flaw embedded in Ontario’s educational system that drags it down even as it drags down Ontario’s reputation as a place where the human rights of all groups are truly respected.
Michael Zwaagstra, a public high school teacher, and a senior fellow with the Fraser Institute, recently published an article in the Financial Post that makes the case for Ontario extending funds to independent schools. The following are excerpts of his opinion piece.
“Ontario parents who want to choose independent schools remain at a significant disadvantage compared to parents in several other provinces. Unlike the four western provinces and Quebec, Ontario provides no financial support for parents choosing independent schools. Parents are on their own.
“But what such aid [funding to independent schools] is really about is letting money follow the student. All parents pay taxes, no matter where their children attend school. So, it makes sense that parents should have the ability to direct at least some of their tax dollars to schools of their choice, whether public, Catholic or independent.
“As for concerns about subsidizing religion, the province already provides 100 per cent funding for Catholic schools. Unless you think Catholics are inherently more worthy of government support than people of other faiths, it makes no sense to deny funding to independent schools because of their religious (or non-religious) affiliation. And there’s no evidence that British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec are more balkanized or divided than Ontario, even though all five of these provinces have long funded independent schools.
“There’s also a major fiscal benefit. When funding follows the student, taxpayers can save money. Most provinces that fund independent schools provide only partial (usually 50 per cent) funding for each independent school student. The rest of the budget for these schools comes from private donations and/or tuition fees. In other words, these provinces get a 50 per cent discount for every student in an independent school — not an unimportant fact for Ontario, which has run budget deficits for 15 years in a row.
“Though government pays less than the full freight, public funding allows tuition fees to be lower, making independent schools available to a wider group of parents. And independent schools have a strong track record of providing a solid academic education and can offer more specialized programming than is typically available in the government-run system. No one can seriously argue that kids need to attend government-run schools these days to receive a quality education.
“Ontario parents deserve the same options as parents in Quebec and the western provinces..… Letting the money follow the student is sensible and fair. Making more education options available to parents and students is always a good thing.”
GAJE wholeheartedly agrees with Mr. Zwaagstra. We hope you do to.
The complete Zwaagstra article is available at:
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For further information, please contact Israel Mida at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Grassroots for Affordable Jewish Education (GAJE)
September 9, 2022