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On funding school boards

John Tory and his Progressive Conservatives in Ontario are promising to fund all faith-based school boards if elected:

The leader of the Opposition wants to extend public funding to institutions of other faiths, such as Islamic, Hindu, Jewish and Christian… There are some 53,000 students attending religious schools outside the public system and they deserve the same support children who attend Catholic schools currently get, Tory said. All religions should be treated fairly and schools should reflect Ontario’s diversity in the 21st century, he added. The promise to extend public funding to religious schools who agree to be part of the public system was included in the Conservative election platform.

Some will see this as a shameless attempt to pander to the ethnic and faith-based vote. Perhaps it is, but I must remind my readers that twice in the last 8 years, the UN has cited Ontario for being discriminatory in its funding practices (or non-funding practices) of these school boards outside of the public and Catholic school board system (h/t Michelle)

Essentially, the choice is either to fund all of these, or fund none of them. I have already stated that there would be a big can of worms opened if someone tried to re-open the Constitution to remove the right of Catholic school boards to receive funding. Quite frankly, my choice is to fund all of on this point, I agree with John Tory’s idea. I also reject we’re going to cause religious or ethnic segregation by doing so. On the contrary, I believe it will help cultural diversity, and I believe the funding would help make these schools accountable to the province for what they are teaching their students; teaching tolerance and respect of multiculturalism should be one guideline set for these schools to receive or to continue to receive funding.


57 comments to On funding school boards

  • Alexander

    People who send kids to school funded by foreigners just because it's free would send their kids to another school within the same faith which does not teach weird aberrations as a norm. So, Tory's suggestion makes most sense even for that situation.

    Catholics and atheists set up inequity. I would be glad if that would stop.

  • catherine

    I don't like the idea of Saudis funding schools in Canada which might be subversive, but I haven't heard about anything in Tory's plan that would change that possibility (if it occurs).  A religious school which is purposely subversive and funded by foreigners is not going to change simply to get some public funds.

    Even though we disagree, I do empathize with your situation.  You obviously are working hard to provide what you think is the best education for your children.  I empathize, but still don't consider this proper use of tax money.  Others might choose a public school and to have their children get religious training outside regular school hours.  I don't question your judgement, but not all choices have to be publicly funded.  The Catholic situation sets up an inequity and that should stop.

  • Alexander

    Catherine, Jewish community helps schools, but I know fees that I am paying after all that help. I cannot afford a real vacation for the last ten years and forced to do crazy over-time.

    Personally, I agree with you compoletely and think that parents must have a full choice of publicly funded school: be it for music, be it for math, be it for atheists, sports, religions, doesn't matter, as long as the values taught do not harm society. Moral based on reasoning ended up with classic: do what is right for you. I don't have problems with that, but follow a different view. Doesn't matter for our discussion.
    53,000 student comprise less than 2% of all student population, and not all schools will switch to public funding. I think public education cost about 30,000M. Allocating 400M does not look so dramatic.

    Not all schools will switch to public funding.

    By rumours, Saudis chip in money for some Muslem schools.  Do you still feel good about saving the money and not having any clue what is taught in different places?

    Private schools are not affected by Teacher Union, at least, yet. They don't have swelled administration. Often, they are much more efficient, and for the fee, comparible to public schools cost, include more subjects and programs. I really don's look at public schooling as at a holy cow.


  • catherine

    The $400M-$500M figures are based on current enrollments in private religious schools but there is no way it will remain that way, since you can't get the same education at the same cost once you set up dozens of separate administrations, some at more cost than others because of the size of their communities. The Jewish community is the most organized at having established schools and is currently most able to provide some aid to parents who could not otherwise afford private tuition.  So, initially, that group will benefit the most from this and UJA has lobbied hard for this.  However, once public funds are extended, the Protestants, Muslims and other faiths which have many followers who have been unable to afford private schools will organize or who didn't mind their children not being taught their own beliefs in school when they didn't see multiple examples of others getting public funding for beliefs they find objectionable.  And, yes, atheists, will challenge (in courts if necessary) why they can't also benefit and have their children taught, for example, that giving up supernatural beliefs which divide is best for society, that all of ethics and morality arise from human reasoning (just like religion does) not from some supreme being as essentially all religions teach and that negative attitudes toward gays, choice on abortion and embryotic stem cell research can be traced to religous teachings in historic times when little was understood about reproduction and the physical universe and women were considered chattel.  [I keep putting in such examples, just to show how far the public school system is from promoting any group's beliefs as some think it serves the purpose of atheists.]   
    Right now, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Falun Gong, Scientologists, …  are all in the same boat (and add up to a lot more than 2% of the population) with only Catholics being singled out (and historical peculiarities have protected them so far from court challenges, but this won't last forever).   
    And, yes Upper Canada and all the elite private schools should challenge this too.  Why should those parents be "ripped off" just because they don't want to teach any particular belief in school except for scholastic (or economic) elitism.  Or perhaps they could develop a common "faith" to qualify for public funds which everyone else will be collecting.

  • Alexander

    Catherine, different people have different beliefs, and we as a democracy should have respect for people having them, as long as they don't cause harm to the society. I would not oppose public funding for a school for agnostics/atheists, as long as they do not continue in the direction of Marxism and Communism.

    Personally, I consider the theory of unguided evolution to be nonsense, contravening major laws of physics and extrapolation. Still, I would respect your choice and your right to send your kids to school which will fit their needs most.

    Steven, if a person starts his business, he is not entitled to unemployment insurance and he does not pay it.  If a person does not want RRSP, he does not need to deposit there. People speding lots on medical bills do get tax credits.

    This whole story with funding tiny religious percent of student population is caused by trying to neglect that tiny percent! Liberals are attacking Tory for soliciting to minorities (BTW, don't see anything wrong with respecting minorities), but are afraid to touch Catholics. This is rude and unfair. Sometimes I think they invented the issue to hide current financial scandals by Liberal ministers.

    We are talking here about tiny number of students. 400m is nothing comparing to tens of billions that are spend to public schools. Ripping off about 2% of population will not bring enough saving to fix public system.

  • catherine

    I completely agree that the funding of Catholic schools is unfair to other religions, but I differ in that I think no religious schools should receive public funds (and I don't always just vote for parties who will govern).  However, if this goes ahead, I relish the idea of lobbying on behalf of atheists/agnostics.  It'd be great to have a school that teaches there is no evidence for a supreme being, that creationism and intelligent design are not science, how religion has been used to control people, how difficult it is to objectively distinquish between religions and cults, and how preposterous the idea of a supreme being who takes a personal interest in human activity is.  Okay, I'm starting to see the attraction to Tory's idea.  It'd be nice to have the choice of a funded school which reinforces my own ideas about the supernatural and religion.  But, really, my strong preference would be to not fund any supernatural dogma, Catholic or other.  By the way, Scientology is a recognized religion in Canada (although some other countries label it a cult) and should be eligible under Tory's plan if they want to get in on some public funding too.

  • Steven Fishman

    If you want to send your kids to a private faith based school that is your choice. You should not be allowed to opt out of paying education tax just because you send your kids to a faith based school. It's like saying I want to go to a private hospital so I should not pay a health tax, or I never plan to collect Unemployment insurance so why should I pay into it. How about I don't plan to collect a pension from the government so I should not pay into the system…..Where will it stop!!!

    Let's not forget that it was the Conservatives under Bill Davis back in the 1980's that decided to fund the catholic schools with public funds, and for any government to say that they will fund faith based schools with public money is just making a promise that they never plan to keep….John Tory is sounding more and more like a Liberal!!!

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