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