Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More on John Tory's proposal

This opinion piece in today's Financial Post by Jack M. Mintz is noteworthy, because it diffuses a few myths concerning the funding of Faith-Based Schools - Religious Schools are Affordable:

While the governing Liberals could take the other side, that all religions should no longer receive public funds, they have decided to take a far-from-clear stand favouring an existing unfair policy. At first arguing that funding religious education erodes social cohesion -- an argument that holds no logic when our own socially integrated Premier is a graduate of a Catholic public-funded system-- they have regressed to an argument that the province can ill afford funding 50,000 students currently in the religious private schools.

He makes the point that if these students weren't in private schools, the public system would have to fund them, so what's the difference?

...existing public-school education costs are partly covered by property taxes paid by families with children in private school. The defence that the government is unable to cover the cost of general studies education for more than 50,000 students (religious education costs would still be left as a cost to the parents)--but can help more than 650,000 Catholic students -- makes no sense, since these students would have to be funded anyway if families chose to put them into public schools. Would the province reject their enrolment? Surely not.



There are a few important items there. He's saying that the cost of the religious education would still be picked up by parents, but that the parents are already contributing to public education through their taxes.



To receive funding, schools will need to satisfy Ontario curriculum requirements (most do already) and be accountable for provincial guidelines. Parents who currently send their children to private religious schools will feel more part of society if they are treated fairly and receive funding like the Catholics.
And this ties in perfectly with a piece in the Globe today - I was a second-class student in Ontario.

Mintz takes a shot at Mike Harris too for centralizing public education decision-making and explains how Alberta is moving away from that model with great success.

If you get time, it's worth the read.


* * * *
Wednesday Update: Lorrie Goldstein - Education becomes the defining issue.

23 comments:

PGP said...

It's all just different sides of utopian views of how public education should work!
The one guaranteed result of trying to implement these schemes will be what history has proven over and over. That being distopia, chaos and ever increasing waste of taxpayers money.
For Example .... a little bit of the current state of anarchy gratis the liberal theoreticians and the fools who follow their lead.

Priorities! Someone needs to ask these politicians just where their's are!

Anonymous said...

Good grief - it's not a simple as you wingnuts think it is - remember the separate school - Protestant and Catholic - is in the Constitution - it would be really difficult to change that - McGuinty can't.

But, oh hey, you guys like to thrash points around that are wasted - you can't do what you can't do.

Sigh....

Anonymous said...

Too little. Too late. This whole issue was unnecessary and poorly conceived. Why?

Steve said...

anonymous #1: Other provinces have changed the constitution to allow them to sidestep this discriminatory legacy. If McGuinty were to walk the talk, he would be advocating a constitutional amendment to bring Ontario educational policy in line with Canada's charter of rights.

The key attraction of Tory's proposal is that it treats all religions equally without requiring a change in the constitution. McGuinty doesn't like that idea. Fine. But to champion discriminatory treatment simply to curry votes shows what a disreputable character he really is.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2 asks: "Why?"

Perhaps there is a clue in what Margaret Wente wrote in today's

"This election was supposed to be a dull contest between two bland middle-of-the-road good guys. But Mr. Tory has found himself a pile of dry brush and lit it. It could be the most spectacular act of self-immolation since Kim Campbell declared that elections were no place to discuss serious issues.

Ironists will note that Mr. Tory managed her campaign.
"

Anonymous said...

Greetings. Your column today was interesting. Out here in BC we have had government support for Faith based schools for a long time and it works very well.



Prior to the government taking over the funding issue we had many non-government schools of a religious nature. They were not required to follow the BC curriculum or hire accredited teachers. It was a moral conundrum for parents.



Now all Faith based schools that agree to follow the BC curriculum and hire only accredited teachers receive 50% funding per student from the government. Most faith based schools cheerfully adhere to this requirement. It results in being able to offer very low tuition fees that are accessible to almost all parents.



It is best, though, for the parents because it gives them the security of knowing that they are not jeopardizing anything if they do not chose the Public School system. They can have the best of both worlds for their children. In fact most of the marginal schools have ceased to exist.



The most interesting outcome of this experiment is the mix of religions encountered in these schools. In many smaller communities in BC the ONLY alternative to the public system is often the Faith based school, whether it is Catholic or Christian or Jewish, etc. Many parents who are dissatisfied with the public school system for a variety of reasons decide to enroll their children in the local Faith based school even though they are not of that religion. The schools are very open and accommodating to other religions and the schools, at least in smaller communities, tend to have a diverse mix of religions among their student base.



What the Ontario Liberal government has cited as ‘racist’ has turned out, for BC, decidedly the opposite. Faith based schools have a thriving mix of ethnic diversity. The uniting factor of the parents is the desire for their children to have the best education possible and if their child gets exposed to a little religious teaching in the process, so be it. It is a small price to pay.



I am one of those parents who switched her kids many years ago and it was the best thing I ever did. Both have grown into tolerant, mature, and productive members of society. Cheers. Sandra



Update: There has been a lively debate going on at www.crux-of-the-matter.com for a few weeks. Sandy, a retired university Education professor, has done a lot of research on this topic and has highlighted the Eden High School as an example of a Faith based school functioning presently within the Ontario Public School system. From the Internet chat I would say that this issue could very well turn in Mr. Tory’s favour. There are just way too many flaws and too much hypocrisy in McGuinty’s arguments.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Sandra, thanks for all that info. So, are you "SOR" or something to that effect at Sandy's? I actually check out her blog quite often, and I think I've seen you commenting there.

From the Internet chat I would say that this issue could very well turn in Mr. Tory’s favour. There are just way too many flaws and too much hypocrisy in McGuinty’s arguments.

I think you're right. It may have ended up being brilliant strategy, Margaret Wente notwithstanding..

Tory differentiated himself from McGuinty in a big way right off the bat. Now all he has to do is demonstrate how McGuinty has lacked integrity on so many issues and broken so many promises.

He could very well end up having the last laugh.

Matt said...

He makes the point that if these students weren't in private schools, the public system would have to fund them, so what's the difference?

Exactly. Dalton is being completely disingenuous when he accuses the Tories of pledging to remove half a billion out of the public system. As costed in the PC platform, they've pledged to add $400,000 to it.

Kingston said...

Lets cut to the chase, it is a matter of fairness, fund all, or fund none, tres simple. As for the Libs maintaining the Status Quo because that is the easiest option political, that is just darn weak and really makes me wonder how they will respond when we need them to make a hard decision. Yes Jason that last comment was for you.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Dalton is being completely disingenuous when he accuses the Tories of pledging to remove half a billion out of the public system.

Matt - Yeah, I am getting really sick of hearing Dalton say that. It is a blatant lie.


it is a matter of fairness, fund all, or fund none, tres simple.

Kingston, exactly. I could live with either, but not the status quo. It is unfair and discriminatory.

Anonymous said...

Joanne-Mea culpa. Yes it is me, SOR. I took that moniker because everyone was getting Sandy and I mixed up at Jack's and her blogs.

As far as Tory, I believe he took a page from Harper's campaign. Remember he came out right away with the same-sex issue and got it off the table before it could blindside his campaign. By the end it was a non issue.

I think Tory is doing the same. He has fullfilled his commitment to the ethnic communities and gives lots of times for reasoned discussion. This is not rocket science. More that half of Canada already funds FB schools and the world has not ended.

I enjoy your site but suggest you do the same as Jack and Sandy and allow for future comments to be sent to each persons' email. It saves having to go back and check and generates great discussion. Just a suggestion. Cheers. SOR

Joanne (True Blue) said...

SOR - Thanks. I'd love to have the email option but it's not available with Blogger as far as I know.

One question about the following part of your previous comment:

In many smaller communities in BC the ONLY alternative to the public system is often the Faith based school, whether it is Catholic or Christian or Jewish, etc. Many parents who are dissatisfied with the public school system for a variety of reasons decide to enroll their children in the local Faith based school even though they are not of that religion.

So in BC, all the faith-based schools, Catholic included are treated the same, right?
They don't have just one faith-based school though, do they?

I'm just trying to understand what you said. Was it that if there were only let's say, a Jewish school in an area, as well as the public, then a Muslim parent might send their child to the Jewish school rather than the public? Or have I completely misinterpreted what you meant? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Joanne-Yes you got it right. All religious schools are treated the same way.

Yes if the only school in the area was Jewish then anyone could go. The reason is that the curriculum is all basically the same (BC mandated) except for two periods a week that can have religious content.

The major difference is the quality of teaching. As they are optional schools that parents pay a small tuition to attend they are able to adhere to standards. If a student is being disruptive it is dealt with immediately which changes the whole tone of the classroom. Teachers are allowed to teach and therefore enjoy it much more.

In my city, Kamloops, (population 80,000)there are only two FB schools, one Catholic and one Christian. I transferred my kids to the Catholic School from the Public system because of the quality of the teaching. We are not Catholic. In fact almost 50% of the school was not Catholic. Ther were Protestants, Muslims, Buddists, well you get the picture.

On the occasion of mass once a month they had a signal set up to let the Priest know which students weren't Catholic. When my daughters went up for communion they would put the hand to their mouth so that he would not offer them communion. Instead he would bless them. My kids found it quite enlightening to see how a religion can be so accomodating.

These schools do not have their own school boards, etc so no duplication of services. The Ministry of Education monitors them and funding is not provided for Capital projects. In other words there must be a large enough core of students to support building the school before it is able to apply for funding. That is why you see various religions pooling together.

In BC the government only provides 50% funding so it actually saves money as it would cost twice as much to accomodate these students in the public system.

FB schools are a win-win situation for everyone in BC and I don't understand why someone hasn't launched a Human Rights Discrimination suit against the Ontario government.

Hope that answers some of your questions. Cheers. SOR

SouthernOntarioan said...

I don't think we should fund faith based schools, at all. I believe that we should pull our support for the Catholic school board and force them to exist on their own merits.

The only problem with this thinking is that then taxpayers with students in the separate school boards will be paying taxes to support the public schools, in which their children are not enrolled.

Realistically, the parents should get a tax refund if their student is in a private school.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

SOR - Thanks so much for that information. Wow. BC seems light years ahead of Ontario in so many ways. I don't know why John Tory doesn't point out how BC has managed to make this work so successfully.

Are you people out there as enlightened in the area of liquor sales as well, or do you have a central-controlled agency like we do here (LCBO)? Just curious.

BTW, if you wouldn't mind emailing me your addy, I'd love to have it on hand if I think of any more questions about FB-education in BC. Thanks!

Joanne (True Blue) said...

The only problem with this thinking is that then taxpayers with students in the separate school boards will be paying taxes to support the public schools, in which their children are not enrolled.

And you think this is not happening with parents of children going to private schools? Admittedly they do get some kind of tax break for the tuition, I understand, but it is nowhere near the cost of the schooling.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

SOR - BTW, my email addy is available on my profile at the top right hand side of the blog.

Möbius said...

Sorry, Joanne, but it's not a question of right or wrong.

I really hate to be cynical, but McG. was destinted to lose this election based on 1. multitudinous lies, 2. slush funds, and 3. an economy in trouble.

Tory has given him a couple of lovely talking points, including 1. funding religious education for all, and 2. creationism. I know, the latter is basically a bunch of media-generated crap, but Libs will still use it to discredit him, and the media loves it!

I suggested a way out, since the election had not yet been called, to rescind the religious education proposal, but Tory has now decided it's a matter of principle. What a nice gift for McG.! Twenty years of political experience and it comes down to this?

Hopefully, the next PC leader will learn something from that. I'm sickened that McG. will get another 4 years to destroy the province. I'm more disgusted that it should not have happened.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Mobius, I'm not so sure Tory's going to lose on this issue. However even a minority Liberal government would be better than another majority.

Möbius said...

The minority was in the bag. How could it not be with the lies and slush funds making news just ahead of the election call?

Tory has now made it questionable with his platform. Really, all he had to do was introduce the idea of vouchers as a possibility, where one could direct education funding. Alternatively, he could have gone to no religious school funding, also a winner, and the more correct position, but more controversial.

When fiscally conservative-leaning voters like myself can't vote for you, you've really screwed up.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

When fiscally conservative-leaning voters like myself can't vote for you, you've really screwed up

Möbius, I respect your decision. Just consider one thing. There isn't a huge difference in "fiscal responsibility" between John Tory and Dalton McGuinty.

There is however, a huge difference in integrity.

Which is more important to you?

Möbius said...

Tory had me with integrity. Not hard really, compared to McG. I used to think McG. was a bland, non-politician. How quickly I learned differently.

The religious funding, I simply can't tolerate. It's a step in the wrong direction. I stopped voting for the Ontario PC's when Bill Davis folded on the Catholic funding issue, and I have a long memory.

I won't vote Lib. or NDP (remember Rae?), probably Green as a protest to the next PC leader. Tory is done. He had his change to recant this stupid policy, but stubbornly refused to do so.

McG. is worse, because he claims that religious education is segregationist, but educates his own kids in the system. He is a hypocrite of the highest order.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

It's your vote, Möbius. I know you've given it a lot of thought; probably more than most folks.