Thursday, November 08, 2007

School controversy not over yet

During the Ontario election the faith-based finding issue was front and centre.

My Sept. 17 post (You're being duped, Ontario) has drawn the attention of Leonard Baak, who is the president of Education Equality in Ontario, which advocates for a one school system.

Mr. Baak seems to feel that one of my anonymous readers has slandered him (at Tue Sep 18, 06:43:00 PM EDT), so it's only fair to highlight his response here so that he can explain his position:

(Thu Nov 08, 08:37:00 PM EST)

Ya gotta love anonymous slander.

For the record, I am neither a disgruntled father nor did I ever want my kids in the Catholic system. Nor is my passion for one school system a reflection of personal anger. If Mr./Ms. anonymous has any evidence to support this, please do tell.

An extreme overcrowding situation in my local public school led me to try -- unsuccessfully -- to enrol my kids in our local Catholic elementary school. It was my second choice. I do not think sectarian religion has any place in publicly funded education -- never have. The duplication also costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year that could be better spent in classrooms and on vital programs and educational supports (special ed, ESL, specialist teachers (gym, librarians), etc). The separate Catholic school system is a shameful and inexcusable waste of valuable education resources. The lost opportunities stemming from that waste result in real pain that is evidenced every year in endless rounds of school board cutbacks.

My local public school was too overcrowded to accommodate all of the students in its attendance zone and could not legally add any more portables. The school board's solution was to bus junior kindergarten kids 90 minutes a day (45 minutes each way) to a less crowded school for a two and a half hour school day. I would not subject a four year old to that. For that reason, I applied to and was turned away by my local Catholic elementary school. I ended up enrolling the kids in a private school for two years at a cost of over $1700 per month to escape an overcrowding situation that my (non-Church-going) Catholic neighbours could escape for free by virtue of the "colour" of their faith.

I was shocked to discover, upon appeal to the Ministry of Education, that these publicly funded schools had an absolute and unfettered right to reject non-Catholic children until grade 9 and to reject non-Catholic teachers at all grade levels. This in a society that professes to value the fundamental equality of its citizens? I grew up in Nova Scotia, where such blatant discrimination has never been tolerated (it only continues to exist in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta -- Ontario most blatantly).

As a practicing Christian, I was equally shocked that this discriminatory status quo is not opposed by and is even defended by other Christians -- or people who profess to be of that faith. If they really loved their neighbours as themselves (remember the Great Commandment?), they would insist that all religious schools be funded equally or not at all. Everyone, including Catholics, should be equal before and under the law. Catholic and Christian teaching demands no less.

And don't give me any garbage about Catholics supporting the right of other faiths to their own funding. Polls during the recent election showed that only 15% of Ontarians supported extended religious school funding. Even if they were all Catholics (which they were not), Catholics make up 34% of the Ontario population. That would suggest that most Catholics support one school system as well or are unabashed and unapologetic bigots who favour educational choice and religious school options only for their own kind. I'll charitably assume the former.

Catholic school/Church vested interests in Ontario only offer quiet and ineffectual platitudes to other faiths with regard to extended religious school funding and only because if they didn't, they'd look like bigots. They typically only do this when the heat (and scrutiny) is on their own system. During the election, many Catholic teachers openly supported the Liberals with their unconscionable, bigoted, Catholics-first-and-only status quo position on religious school funding. The Catholic trustees, teachers union, and principals' council all applauded Liberal announcements in news releases and public comments while ignoring the fact that the Tories offered ever more money. While saying they support equal rights for other faiths, they were quietly working against those who proposed to make it a reality. They knew damned well that dividing a limited pie even further would be detrimental to all children in the existing publicly funded systems. You can see it already in current education funding.

English Catholic school boards generally receive hundreds of dollars more per pupil per year than their coterminous English public boards. French public boards similarly receive substantially more per pupil per year than their coterminous French Catholic boards, which are always the larger of the French boards. French boards universally receive thousands of dollars more per pupil per year than their coterminous English boards, whether public or Catholic. This is not favouritism of Catholic over public or of French over English, but a clear recognition in the education funding formula of the inefficiencies of smaller boards serving more dispersed student populations. The smaller boards receive higher funding to allow them to offer an educational experience of comparable quality to their larger counterparts.

My motivation is opposing the continuation of the separate Catholic system is that I agree with most Ontarians that it is wrong to segregate children by faith and it is a gross injustice to provide publicly funded school choice to the members of a single privileged faith alone. I am also interested in seeing better stewardship of the funding committed to public education and religious neutrality in government. I think a single public school system is the best way to accomplish that. Religious schools, if they are to be funded at all, should be funded at arm's length through modest tax credits that are not significant enough to promote an exodus from truly inclusive and multicultural public schools.

Attempting to ascribe my actions to hateful motives is dishonest in the extreme.

Regards,
Leonard Baak.

Thank you, Mr. Baak. I have several readers who totally agree with your point of view.

I personally feel that the status quo is unacceptable because it discriminates according to religious faith. But what about Eden High Christian School in Niagara, and other such anomalies?

And already there is a Toronto school for gays and lesbians (Oasis).

How do we explain the Toronto District School Board talking about a school for blacks-only?

Just where does the Minister of Education stand on all this NOW?


* * * *

Friday Update: Black-focused school gains ground -

...But one thing was clear: A healthy majority supported the concept...

...However, one member of the Somali-Canadian National Congress called such schools "a hare-brained idea – we just voted against segregating children into faith-based schools," said Abdurahman Hosh Jibril...

Yeah, well. Don't let logic stop the TDSB.

This June, at the urging of a group of concerned black parents, the school board agreed to study the feasibility of such a school as an alternative for students who can feel alienated in mainstream schools.

Couldn't that reasoning be applied to just about anyone who feels 'alienated' in mainstream schools?

Can a Chinese or Muslim-only school be far behind?


Post - The TDSB's Bad Idea.

(Thursday) Sun - Here's why black schools are failing.

Saturday - Not black and white - Michael Coren.

40 comments:

Lee said...

Mr. Baak doesnt address one of the main problems that drives people to seek separate schools.
The quality of the education received in the public school system is very poor.

BEAJ said...

Lee, do you have any stats to prove this?

I agree with Baak, of course. Faith based schools should get zero funding from the government. There are a multitude of reasons, but Baak gave a real life example of the intolerance that divides different religions.

I really don't have an opinion as yet when it comes to a gay and lesbian school. This is a gender separation more than anything else.

I don't know if I'm for or against boy schools or girl schools...I guess I lean against them.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the quality of education in the public sysstem would be better if they had the same funding as the seprate one plus the public system has the added cost of special education studies for minorities.

Lee said...

I cant find it right now, but the last survey i saw showed that Alberta schools had the best level of educational excellence when compared to all other provinces.
Alberta funds separate schools as long as teachers are certified and they follow the programs set out by the Provincial Government.
Funding follows the students, giving parents choice.
Sorry i dont have time to find the links, im off to work.

Sandy said...

Joanne -- To put my two cents in.

As you know I was working for a Harris MPP when the funding formula was changed. Prior to the change, Catholic boards claimed they received just 60 cents for every dollar the public boards received. The new funding formula apparently equalled that meaning they are both now getting a dollar for a dollar -- which means the public board actually felt a reduction in funding.

I have tried to find documentation about those numbers but it was, unfortunately before the Internet became popular. If anyone has a link to that, I would appreciate it.

Bottom line is that both systems now have to use the same formula based on a complex square footage versus number of students within that space. If enrollment in a school is down, they have to make the political decision to close it down or get reduced funding. If it is shut down, then a new school can be built when combining two low enrollment schools. The Catholic boards have used this tool very effectively which explains why they have so many new schools. Whereas the public boards give in to public pressure and keep dozens of low enrollment schools open to avoid the political heat.

Regarding FB funding of private schools. It would not have been equal funding. All capital & infrastructure funding, etc., would have had to be paid by the private board.

As you know, there is already a FB school in St. Catharines -- Eden High School -- where my grandchildren attend. It has been very effectively managed by a public board for over twenty years. They have public school (unionized) teachers and very high standards and all spiritual activities are done before or after the regular school day.

The proof is in the pudding. Eden has 750 students and a long waiting list while the regular public high school connected to them is dropping as we speak.

The real question is: Since Eden is using regular unionized Ontario certified teachers, why is it that the standards there are so high when compared to other public high schools? Answer is that the parents are committed to that excellence and support the staff in every way. In other words, there isn't an "us versus them" attitude.

So, standards and excellence are reflective of not only the teachers but the community. Something to think about.

Anonymous said...

As someone who supports parental choice Mr. Baak offends me by pushing HIS choice on Me and any others that don't agree with his stance.

I'd like Mr. Baak to prove to the blog that "English Catholic school boards generally receive hundreds of dollars more per pupil per year than their coterminous English public boards."

Also as the amalgamation of school boards under Mike Harris showed us, there was little evidence of cost savings recognized because when two boards merged the usually rounded costs UP to the highest common denominator.

I also do recall that the teacher unions also agree with Mr. Baak's position on one-system. The OSSTF in particular has been harping on the one system model ever since Earl Manners was their leader.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me. Before we all feel that Mr. Baak has been victimized in what's been posted here, perhaps he needs to be asked if the Toronto Sun's Moira MacDonald was wrong in her column of April 9, 2007 entitled "Seperate Schools Under Fire" when she wrote: "And there's more talk in education activist cicles about a small group called the Education Equality in Ontario (www.oneschoolsystem.org). Founded by a frustrated non-Catholic father from Stittsville, and Ottawa suburb, EEO has been writing letter s to the editor and organizing a petition calling for a single school system, with limited success.
"For some groups, this is too hot for them. They don't have the stomach for being called Catholic-bashers," founder and dad Leonard Baak told me."

"Not hard to see why he was ticked off."

So this frustrated and ticked off father founded an organization hell bent of eliminating Catholic education.

Yet, from what I can see the public system is being let off scott free in this instance isn't it?

I can't speak for whoever referred to Mr. Baak as "disgruntled" or "angry". Seems to be in line with MacDonald's column. If he has a problem with the column then he better alert the Toronto Sun.

All I can say is for him to join the club of the rest of us who have NO CHOICE but to take what the publicly funded system offers, Catholic, English, French, who cares......it's a system that is more concerned with the adults it employs than of students or what parents think.

Why should Mr. Baak's choice or organization speak for anyone but himeself?

Anonymous said...

Sandy's right re: the equalizing of funding between Catholic and public boards.

If anything up until that point the Catholic boards worked on less funding not more.

Mike Harris not only equalized that but made sure that students outside of the glut boards(Ottawa, TDSB, Hamilton) were funded equally, so Baak's comments are incorrect.

Anonymous said...

The greatest myth of all is spun by Leonard Baak if you ask me.

The public system is far, FAR from a model of efficiency, financial or otherwise. Why is it that when most boards, with the exception of some GTA boards that the system continues to hire teachers? Para-professionals?

Should it take more administrators and bureaucrats to administer education to fewer children.

Not to mention that, as the last few EQAO results have shown the public boards aren't teaching kids to read or do math well enough.

Not so the scores of the Catholic boards. They routinely top the province - why is that exactly?

If anything maybe Mr. Baak wants to roll the system's together so that the english public one learns from the best practices of the Cathlolic systems?

Caveat said...

Whatever his personal agenda may be, Mr Baak nicely articulates my own opinion on this issue, which distills to 'fund all or fund none'.

Some of the comments here have been very informative because to be honest this isn't an issue I've studied much.

I fully agree that taxpayer-funded schools should be religion-free overall; however, given the precedent we have the only other viable option is to somehow accommodate those of other religions. This could be done through after-school classes or during a social studies class or even through the model suggested by Tory.

Learning about religion is interesting. I think it's indoctrination that makes people uneasy.

I also think that if a school is publicly funded, religious or not, it should be open to all students regardless of their religious background.

Fairness is important.

Anonymous said...

Let's go one step further Caveat and others.

Before we through more money at a system that still isn't as accountable to the public it's suppose to serve, we need to demand more from the system.

The system has made itself too expensive and unless more is done to curb inefficiency by deflating the ballooning bureaucracy, frustrated, ticked-off and pissed off parents will be spinning their wheels forever with not much changing for their kids....ever.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

and unless more is done to curb inefficiency by deflating the ballooning bureaucracy,

There is the problem right there.

McGuinty is beholden to the unions - especially the teachers' unions.

Lots of public service contracts are coming due. You ain't seen nothing yet regarding bloating.

liberal supporter said...

McGuinty is beholden to the unions - especially the teachers' unions.

Think he wants to be re-elected? I think he plans to retire. He'll stay just long enough to negotiate fair, but not exorbitant contracts.

I also think that if a school is publicly funded, religious or not, it should be open to all students regardless of their religious background.


It seems that it varies whether separate schools accept non RC's. That needs to be changed so they accept all students. They could restrict it to students practicing some religion, but they have to be "the" faith based system. Then in areas where some other faith is over 40% of the population, that faith would take the lead in the separate schools there.

Anonymous said...

Education in Ontario is so behind the times it's not funny. For a province with so many people I don't understand why folks haven't clued into the whole school choice thing by now? If parents have the power to vote with their feet and leave the system, how many would choose to keep their kids in a mediocre system?

Not many I bet.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

If parents have the power to vote with their feet and leave the system, how many would choose to keep their kids in a mediocre system?

Hence the support of the unions behind McGuinty.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Think he wants to be re-elected? I think he plans to retire. He'll stay just long enough to negotiate fair, but not exorbitant contracts.

L.S. You're right. I think he has other aspirations:

...Little wonder, then, that so many of us in the maligned but nonetheless profitable trade of spin-doctor are insisting to all who will listen that, yes, we are still Liberals -- but strictly provincial ones in the wake of a victory by Dalton McGuinty. To us, it seems that, if Dion hangs in for another two years or so (a truly grim prospect) Dalton can become the first provincial Premier to be reincarnated as PM.

(Ray Heard via Bourque.)

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Sandy, I somehow missed your comment yesterday, but thanks for the input.

Something to reflect on; especially the consequences of an "us vs. them" attitude. Thanks for this.

Leonard Baak said...

Re: "Lee said...
Mr. Baak doesnt address one of the main problems that drives people to seek
separate schools.
The quality of the education received in the public school system is very
poor."


You're right, I didn't, but there is only so much one can address in a single blog posting, and this issue has many facets.

There is a broad-based perception that the quality of education is higher in the publicly funded Catholic system than in the truly public and universally accessible public system. From what I can tell in talking to parents having that perception, it is based on widely published EQAO standardized testing numbers, which generally show Catholic boards outscoring their coterminous public boards slightly in reading, writing, and mathematics.

In my experience talking to parents who point to standardized test scores in generalizing that Catholic school boards academically outperform than their public counterparts, they do not consider the "contextual information" provided to help one to compare apples to apples when interpreting the results. In fact, I've yet to encounter a such a parent who has even heard of that information (it doesn't help that the media never looks at it). Among other things, the "contextual information" provides a breakdown of what percentage of test writing students are ESL/ELD learners, born outside of Canada, and whose first language was other than English (for English school boards). Public boards tend to have 2 to 10 times as many such students as their coterminous Catholic boards. See the EQAO reports for Ottawa (public, Catholic), Toronto (public, Catholic), and Waterloo (public, Catholic) for examples.

The increased prevalence of students who have less ability in the English language or who are from foreign cultures in public school boards would of course contribute to lower average test scores in those boards. It would be interesting to compare the results of white, native born, English mother tongue children in coterminous boards. I'm sure the results would come closer to parity (or reveal superiority the other way -- the public system does not automatically exclude two-thirds of the population as a talent pool for teachers).

2001 Census data (Statistics Canada) also reveals socio-economic factors that might explain the apparent academic performance difference between public and (publicly funded) Catholic school boards. Catholic Ontarians, as a group, have a lower than unemployment rate and a higher level of educational attainment than the corresponding Ontario averages. This gives them an advantage in participating in the education of their children or in applying additional resources (tutors, books, etc) when required. Fresh Census data for the 2006 census will come out next spring.

If there was any truth to the notion that Catholic school boards are academically superior to their public counterparts (and I don't think there is), it would make the discrimination that allows Catholic school boards to reject two-thirds of all students (the non-Catholics) all the more reprehensible than it is already. Why should one's faith allow one access to better schools? It would be no more reprehensible than setting up a superior school system for white children of Anglo-Saxon descent. If the separate system really is better, it should be made the open, inclusive, secular public system and the public schools should be folded into it. There should be equality of opportunity in public education -- equality before and under the law (a foreign concept in our school system).

Whenever you have two publicly funded education options, one is inevitably going to be better than the other in each locale. In some places, it will be the public system -- in others, the Catholic system. When the better school in a given locale is the Catholic one, only Catholic parents are guaranteed access. That represents an unfair advantage over their non-Catholic neighbours and is every bit as reprehensible as discrimination based on skin colour. My faith is a scarlet letter I cannot wash off. In Ontario, it means my children and I have fewer choices in government services than our neighbours of a more favoured faith. It also means that my children have far fewer employment options than their Catholic neighbours if they decide to become teachers. That is so wrong.

If the public school system is going to make options available, they should be equally accessible and free of discrimination on prohibited grounds (race, religion, gender, sexual orientation). That of course, would naturally exclude religious schools, which if they are to be funded at all, should be funded at arm's length from government through a tax credit (or similar mechanism) that leaves it to parents, not government, to decide what constitutes a faith and which ones are valid and which ones are not. No government should make such decisions and they should certainly not elevate one faith into a position of privilege over all others.

Anonymous said...

The parents I have spoken to don't buy the Mr. Baak's theory any more.
The EQAO is not the only measure of student achievement in Ontario any more. However, even after several years, trends can be seen.
Almost always the top boards are Catholic.

C.H. Howe Institute and the Fraser Institute also now do report cards on student achievement adding many indicators that the EQAO tests do not.

Results from CD Howe and Fraser Institute indicate the top academic performing schools in Ontario are Catholic.

Go to their respective websites and see for yourself.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

That of course, would naturally exclude religious schools, which if they are to be funded at all, should be funded at arm's length from government through a tax credit (or similar mechanism) that leaves it to parents, not government, to decide what constitutes a faith and which ones are valid and which ones are not.

So you're not totally against the concept of tax credits for faith-based schools, Mr. Baak?

Leonard Baak said...

Re: "Anonymous said...
The parents I have spoken to don't buy the Mr. Baak's theory any more."


What theory?

Re: "Anonymous said...
"The EQAO is not the only measure of student achievement in Ontario any more. However, even after several years, trends can be seen. Almost always the top boards are Catholic."


I didn't disagree previously, but only pointed out that the differences are explainable by measurable differences in the populations served.

Re: "Anonymous said...
"C.H. Howe Institute and the Fraser Institute also now do report cards on student achievement adding many indicators that the EQAO tests do not. Results from CD Howe and Fraser Institute indicate the top academic performing schools in Ontario are Catholic. Go to their respective websites and see for yourself."


Yes go. The websites are CD Howe and Fraser Institute. Both base their analyses on EQAO data and Census data.

A flaw in the CD Howe methodology was that while they considered the effect of averaged socio-economic factors in a given area on academic performance, they did not consider how those socio-economic factors broke out in the populations using each school system within each area (relative socio-economic factors across the four publicly funded school systems). From Census data, Catholic families appear to be relatively advantaged on a socio-economic basis compared to their non-Catholic neighbours (unemployment rate, level of educational attainment). Perhaps there are also differences between the French and English populations of an area as well. CD Howe did not appear to consider that.

The Fraser study has the same flaws. They consider average values for parental and family characteristics in a given area (Ottawa vs, Toronto, for example), but fail to examine the relative characteristics of parents and families as they break out into the four publicly funded systems (within Waterloo's school systems, for example). As I alluded to previously, Catholics have a higher level of educational attainment than the Ontario average and suffer lower than average unemployment. That biases their children - and their school system - to higher results.

Ontario's Catholic school boards also have far fewer immigrant children, non-English-native-tongue students, and ESL/ELD students. They simply bear a much lighter burden when it comes to integrating non English speaking newcomers and children with language based learning challenges. When you have a higher starting point, you should get higher results.

As I said earlier, Catholic schools are no doubt better in some areas. That is one of the most objectionable aspects of the discrimination. Why should people of a single favoured faith have access to better schools anywhere? Why should Ontario Catholics have this right? Giving white people access to better schools is every bit as -- but no more -- objectionable. Discriminating in services based upon people's intrinsic characteristics (race, religion, ethnicity, etc) is so very objectionable. It is time to put an end to it once and for all.

Anonymous said...

so you're ok with tax credits for all fb schools just not funding catholics or other faiths with public money?

Isn't it all coming from the same taxpayer?

I read the Sun column that another anon. referred to and you said, Mr. Baak that this subject is one that most wouldn't tackle because folks don't want to be Catholic-bashers.

Why would you even suggest that unless that's what it is?

If you're going after the Catholics then you need to roll the French boards into the public board also?

Leonard Baak said...

Re: "Joanne (True Blue) said...
So you're not totally against the concept of tax credits for faith-based schools, Mr. Baak?"


We are neutral on the idea of tax credits that meet the conditions set out in our objectives, which state:

"Education Equality in Ontario is neutral on the virtues of education tax credits for families using public school alternatives, subject to the following conditions:

Any tax credit offered for public school alternatives must apply equally to all Ontarians; including Ontario Catholics. A tax credit good enough for some should be good enough for all. Education Equality in Ontario will vigorously oppose any education tax credit proposal that leaves Ontario Catholics with superior funding compared to families using other public school alternatives.

Any tax credit offered for public school alternatives must not discriminate between religious and non-religious alternatives.

Any tax credit offered for public school alternatives should be modest enough so as to not detract from the quality of education offered in the public school system or encourage an exodus from that system which would undermine the role of public schools in fostering greater tolerance and understanding between Ontarians of different backgrounds."

Anonymous said...

"...modest enough so as not to detract from the quality of educatino offered by the public system or encourage an exodus.....

You have bought hook, line and sinker the myth perpetuated by the naysayers of more choice for parents, the teacher unions and those who don't want parents to have the power to get the best education possible for their children.

Nowhere where parents have options for alternative education, paid for in full or in part by taxdollars has their been a mass exodus from the public system.

To think that that would happens actually counters your believe that the public system offers any sort of quality at all.

EQAO scores show flat-lining occurring and way too many kids not reading of doing math effectively.

Joanne (True Blue) said...

Any tax credit offered for public school alternatives must not discriminate between religious and non-religious alternatives.

So therefore, schools that offer alternative programs based on race, sexual orientation, gender or any other factor should be making use of the same tax credit system as the one that you would be comfortable with concerning religious alternatives?

Leonard Baak said...

Re: "So therefore, schools that offer alternative programs based on race, sexual orientation, gender or any other factor should be making use of the same tax credit system as the one that you would be comfortable with concerning religious alternatives?
"


I think that all public school alternatives, if they are to be funded at all, should be treated fairly under the same (preferably simple) mechanism. My own preference is for no public funding for private alternative schools, but I could live with a modest partial funding scheme such as exists in other jurisdictions.

Schools that discriminate on the grounds you mention, which are all prohibited grounds under the Charter of Rights and other human rights instruments to which Canada is a party, might find themselves in difficulty with the legal system (nevermind winning acceptance with the public!). Catholic schools have a constitutional license to discriminate against non-Catholic students and teachers based on the denominational "rights" they were given at Confederation. They get a free pass, so to speak, wherein their non-fundamental denominational privilege trumps the fundamental equality rights of everyone else. Doubtful if other groups could get away with that.

I do not like the idea of public funding for any school that discriminates on prohibited grounds (religion, race, gender, sexual orientation), but if public money is going to flow into such schools at all, it must be done at arm's length from government (through a mechanism like a tax credit). Otherwise government gets drawn into really sticky decisions concerning what is and is not a valid religion, race, etc. and is deserving of public funding. Bad idea to go there at all. John Tory and his campaign advisors were crazy to even propose it. What on earth were they thinging?

Alternative schools that do not discriminate on prohibited grounds (arts, technical, sports, etc) are another matter entirely. Many school boards already fund these and I have no issue with them as long as their numbers are kept within reason. "Choice" comes at a cost in terms of duplication, loss of economies of scale, and overlapping attendance zones with their attendant costs.

Leonard Baak said...

Re: Anonymous said...
I read the Sun column that another anon. referred to and you said, Mr. Baak that this subject is one that most wouldn't tackle because folks don't want to be Catholic-bashers. Why would you even suggest that unless that's what it is?"


Correction. What I was saying was that some groups and individuals favouring one system would not wade into the debate publicly because they did not want to be CALLED Catholic-bashers ("called" was the word I used in the interview and is what was printed by the reporter). I was referring to baseless name-calling by our opponents. Some people can't stomach being accused of something ugly even if it totally and demonstrably untrue (for me, sticks and stones, etc -- especially when you know the accusations to be nothing but false witness against you). Yet name-calling and baseless accusations are what many of our opponents, who can't come up with any compelling arguments to support their superior rights, resort to (mostly in secret (or anonymously) -- we hear about it later). Some Christians eh? Who is bashing who here?

Opposing superior rights in law for Ontario Catholics is no more anti-Catholic than opposing apartheid in South Africa was anti-white. It is a baseless slur that our more unsavoury opponents often throw out in reference to us without pointing to a shred of evidence to back it up.

I have been called a Catholic-basher to my face, to which I calmly replied that I have no issue with the Catholic faith (I'm Christian myself), but with discrimination and waste in our publicly funded school system. In each case I offered, if my accusers could point to anything in my presentation or our materials and web site that might substantiate their claim, to raise their concerns with our directors to have the situation remedied. No one has ever taken me up on the offer.

There is a gross inequity in Ontario's education system and we want to see it addressed in a manner that improves public education for all children and brings children of all backgrounds together. There is nothing to apologize for in that. We will continue to insist on equal consideration and respect from a religiously neutral Ontario government (someday we'll have one!).

Re: Anonymous said...
If you're going after the Catholics then you need to roll the French boards into the public board also?"


Discriminating on the basis of a nation's official languages is not considered prohibited discrimination ("race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability" in our Charter of rights). It therefore does not offend us and would likely not offend any other human rights organization. It is accepted in nations the world over. One could argue that it is in a nation's economic best interest to offer education in their official languages only.

That being said, there certainly is a cost associated with running parallel English and French school systems, just as there is a cost associated with running parallel public and Catholic systems. The French systems, in fact, cost much more to run on a per pupil basis than either English system. In Ontario, French language school boards receive thousands of dollars more per pupil per year than their coterminous English boards to overcome the inefficiencies of serving a smaller, more geographically dispersed population with more geographically dispersed schools. They also have fewer opportunities for economies of scale and pay more for French language educational materials, which cost more due to smaller printing runs (smaller market). They need extra money in order to offer a level of education comparable to their larger counterparts (just as English Catholic school boards generally receive more than their coterminous English public boards -- though hundreds of dollars more, not thousands).

Canada's decision to become officially bilingual (English and French) was a relatively recent political development. Official language education rights were established by our own generation with the agreement of all provinces in the 1980s. Denominational school "rights", on the other hand, were enacted by our great-great-great-great-grandparent's generation to address mid-19th century realities. The Anglo-Irish, English-French, and especially the Protestant-Catholic divisions that racked 19th century Ontario simply do not exist to any significant degree today. It is time we moved on and updated our laws to reflect today's realities.

Denominational school "rights" can be rescinded very quickly and easily through a bilateral amendment requiring the consent of Ontario and Ottawa alone (or unilaterally without constitutional change), while an amendment rescinding official language education rights would require the approval of at least 7 of 10 provinces representing at least 50% of the population. That is just not going to happen; especially so soon after those very same provinces approved official language education rights.

See the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, particularly the section on Minority Language Education Rights. The bilateral amending formula through which Ontario could quickly eliminate denominational school rights is described in section 43 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

My local school board trustee remembers a time when French and English schools were under the same board. She indicated it did not work as well for either party as the current arrangement. One cost had to do with the translation of all board business, procedures, and communications. You would also still have the separate English and French language schools under the merged system (different languages after all), so there wouldn't be much in the way of savings from the elimination of redundancy either. But by all means, let's merge the French public and Catholic systems. That is part of our goal.

I'm curious who I am talking to. Why the anonymous posting?

Joanne (True Blue) said...

I do not like the idea of public funding for any school that discriminates on prohibited grounds (religion, race, gender, sexual orientation), but if public money is going to flow into such schools at all, it must be done at arm's length from government (through a mechanism like a tax credit).

Thanks, Leonard. I think we all are wanting to see some consistency here.

I'm not sure how the funding works for Eden, Oasis, and other alternative schools, but I think that the playing field needs to be leveled.

Anonymous said...

The Catholic system is here to stay. No government will touch this. It was even voted down at OPSBA.

We need more choices funded under the public system, also help for homeschoolers.

The truth of education in Ontario is that it's not all about the public system any more. The landscape includes choice, and all parents need their choices respected by their government

Anonymous said...

the CD Howe also recognizes that choice would strengthen the public system not weaken it.

I recomment the Society of Quality Education mythbusters on school choice for the debunking of the lies.

janfromthebruce said...

Anonymous said…

"The Catholic system is here to stay. No government will touch this. It was even voted down at OPSBA."

Actually, no it did not. At the AGM in June 2007, the directors voted down this: requests the Ontario Public School boards’ Association to renew its petition to the Government of Ontario that there be one publicly funded school board system in the province and that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Minister of Education and Premier.

It voted down renewing its petition of its historical position from 1990, updated in 2003, and is its current position.

During the debate, no one spoke against this policy position, but spoke against "repetitioning" the government now because of the election.
Other speakers suggested that the organization being vocal about this now, might upset their partnerships and relationships with their catholic partners, or potential partnerships around developing consortiums.
Of course, when our Catholic partners don't have a problem supporting extending public dollars for private religious schools, and state that publicly, one wonders about why that wouldn't be "just as threatening" to those same partnerships. Hmm!

So in a nutshell, OPSBA supports a policy position of one school system, always has, and continues to do so.
More recently, the membership voted to direct staff to post all our policies on education on our webpage available for public awareness. This is considered best practices.

Anonymous said...

janfromthebruce - interesting that the OPSBA doesn't state what you've said publicly....or has it.

Show us the official position of OPSBA? We here have heard something very different and that in now way does the OPSBA want to touch nixing the Catholic system.

Lorrie Goldstein says it best..again today in "Black school a phony fix"

"Schools fail when they don't teach students how to read, write, add and think critically, provide a safe learning environment and inspire children with teachers who are mentors and positive role models."

"So, contrary to what its detractors claim, this "black school" will likely succeed, although success should be measured by such things as literacy, not how "Africentric" its curriculum is."

That goes for all schools and all systems if you ask me.

Ontario needs to move forward as Lorrie suggests by "We could reward teachers with merit pay, fire bad ones, plus allow vouchers and charter schools so parents will have more say and options in their children's education."

Yes, Yes, Yes!!!

Holding up the public system as the poster child for effective quality education is a joke quite frankly.

It's not the model Ontario needs.

Anonymous said...

yes, janfromthebruce what was the motion from the June OPSBA agm exactly?

janfromthebruce said...

janfromthebruce - interesting that the OPSBA doesn't state what you've said publicly....or has it.

Borst, on Catholic lite, got it wrong in his June 9, 2007 post, which stated "The Ontario Public School Boards’ Association today voted down a resolution to support a one school board, English and French, model for Ontario schools."

It only voted down the repetitioning of its said policy, not its historical policy. If one was to ask explicitly what their policy is on one school system, you would get that they support one school public education system.
Once all OPSBA board policies are posted on their webpage, which is in the process of happening, you will be able to see this.

So to assure you what the actual resolution was at the AGM. You may see that this board supported this resolution, and exactly how it was written:

That the Waterloo Region District School Board receive as information the correspondence from the Grand Erie District School Board requesting support for their action of requesting the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association to renew its petition to the Government of Ontario for one publicly funded school board system in the province. (Folio 55) - Carried Unanimously -
http://72.14.205.104/search?q=cache:WEJLU1wlrkUJ:www.wrdsb.on.ca/minutes/board_minutes_Mar_26_07_Board_minutes.pdf+OPSBA+one+school+system+policy+position&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=14&gl=ca

janfromthebruce said...

And to just affirm that this is OPSBA's official position, this is from the publicly posted minutes from another school board:

G.2 Proposed Policy Resolutions for the 2006 OPSBA Annual General Meeting
Trustee Burgess advised that she needs to know how to vote at the OPSBA AGM. She referred to the background information on what is being proposed by OPSBA as included in the agenda package.l.. (b)One Publicly Funded SystemConsensus: OPSBA is on record and our Board is on record supporting this. The French Language Boards, both Catholic and Public, are on side with this. The Teacher Federations for both the French Public and Catholic Boards have taken a stand on this. Their preference is for one publicly funded English and one publicly funded French educational system. It was noted that this motion is not well worded in terms of the “whereas”. It is recognized that the government will not be acting on this.http://72.14.205.104/search?q=cache:RWu5p0kqMq4J:www.gecdsb.on.ca/Board/meetings/060517.pdf+OPSBA+one+school+system+policy+position&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=20&gl=ca

Main words to note here: OPSBA is on record....

Anonymous said...

If OPSBA's formal position is to nix the Catholic boards in favour of one system, then it should be a huge news event in all media?

Where's the press release? Why hasn't the media been all over this?

Joanne - I think to settle this you need to go straight to OPSBA and ask them if in fact they've agreed to the demand of EEC and moving to one system.

It would be more acceptable to get the facts than be exposed to more spin from both sides.

The Catholics don't support one system and quite publicly support funding other religions. Isn't that the kind of world and system we want...not one that forces membershp?

Anonymous said...

If janfromthebruce is correct then she's done a good job of convincing me that taxpayer dollars should NOT be going to the OPSBA group. Taxpayers are from all faiths including Catholic, therefore supporting a provincial organization "on record"(as jan suggests) for working to kill the Catholic system.

A system, may I remind you is the Premier's own religious choice.

Just because some boards(not all by a long shot) supported the Grand Erie move to one-system, doesn't make it right. Plenty of boards didn't sign on to this snowball.

What we have here are two sides of an issue:

1) those who want the public system , a system so grossly underfunded and mismanaged to take over all others.

2) those who want to respect the choices of parents to choose their child's school and be supported by their gov't in resources and law to do so.

Given that public school boards are slowly losing their grip on making local decisions thanks to a very hands-on (some would say controlling) government, I think what the one-system move is clearly doing is doing away with local school boards entirely in favour of one mega-system.

Maybe this is the goal of not only EEC, but OPSBA, and the gov't also?

Haven't we heard the notion that the gov't could move to an education-type LHINS as in healthcare? Well....can't do that without squeezing the school boards at the local level and weakening the local voice and decision-making powers.

Does EEC really want to do this?

janfromthebruce said...

Anonymous asked for the motion from the June OPSBA agm exactly?

"That the Ontario Public School Boards' Association be requested to renew its position to the Government of Ontario that there be one publicly funded school board system in the Province for each of Canada's official languages, (and amended to be added at the end of the motion after the word "languages")and that a copy of this resolution be sent to the Minister of Education and Premier requesting a public referendum at the next provincial election."
That was defeated, not the policy in itself.

Joanne (True Blue) said...


Lorrie Goldstein says it best..again today in "Black school a phony fix"


Thanks for the tip. I missed it.

Perhaps I will do another post on this soon and bump up the discussion, since it seems to be a hot topic.

janfromthebruce said...

so the association holds this current position, passed in June, 2003, at the Annual General Meeting held in Niagara Falls, the Association passed the following motion:
Whereas OPSBA has maintained since 1990 a historical position in support of one publicly funded school system; and
Whereas some of OPSBA's member boards already provide students with an academic study in world religions; and
Whereas the United Nations has ruled that Ontario's publicly funded school system is in violation of the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, of which Canada is a signatory; and
Whereas the government's move to a tax-credit voucher system supports neither a strong publicly funded education system nor an equal opportunity for students of all backgrounds according to the UNHR Committee's recommendations:

Therefore Be it Resolved:
That OPSBA maintain its historical position in support of one publicly funded system of education for each of Canada's offical languages;

That OPSBA express its support for the inclusion of academic study in world religions as an offical component of the Ontario curriculum; and

That OPSBA express its support for the existence of permissive legislation which would permit publicly funded school boards the flexibility, where local community support exists, to offer religious programming, either during or outside the school day.

And that my friends, is the official position of OPSBA, exactly as written.