GAJE will go to court with specific parents as the plaintiffs to challenge the government of Ontario’s policy of denying any public funds to independent denominational schools.
We will ask the courts to reassess the 1996 Supreme Court Adler decision that provided support to the government of Ontario’s policy of denying any public funds to independent denominational schools. That decision did not prevent the government from providing funds to the general studies portion of independent denominational schools. It ruled rather that not doing so was legal in light of the founding agreement of Confederation in 1867 between Upper and Lower Canada.
GAJE’s case will aim to have the law move with the times to compel the government of Ontario to fund the cost of education in the province’s independent schools. We are not asking Ontario to embark on a revolutionary educational funding policy; the next five largest provinces in Canada have funded independent schools for many years.
The province of Ontario pays 100% of the cost of Roman Catholic schools and none for all other religious day schools and other independent schools. Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba pay 50 to 60% of the costs of secular subjects in Jewish day schools. That makes a huge difference to affordability.
Ontario politicians and editorial writers have contended for years that public funding for independent schools, including Jewish day schools, would harm the public schools. They say that parents would withdraw their children from public education and “fragment” the system.
Is this true? Not at all. First, consider enrollment. In Ontario, in 2014-2015, 94% of children were in the public system. In Alberta, which funds independent schools, the public system attracted an even higher proportion, 96%. In Saskatchewan it was 98% and Manitoba 92%, in Quebec 88% and BC 87%. Public education is holding its own in all five provinces that fund independent schools.
David Matas is leading GAJE’s legal team.
GAJE is raising funds now to carry on the court case. It will cost about $200,000, which means that our lawyers are doing the case virtually pro bono.
If the legal challenge succeeds, it will mean potentially almost as much money each year in perpetuity for Jewish day schools as the annual UJA campaign raises in total. It would be in the range of $35 million to $50 million a year, based on the levels of support in the five provinces that fund independent schools. Most importantly, it would mean permanent, significantly lower tuition in our schools, and higher enrollment.
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