Monday, July 23, 2007

Tory's Plan To Fund Faith-based Schools

I admit the first thing I remarked when I say John Tory's proposal to allow private faith-based schools to access public funds was this: $400 million? That's it?

While I admit that it is a lot of money, it's not much when compared to some other big ticket items. I only have two questions about Tory's proposal.

  • Where will he get $400 million from?
  • How will we decide which school deserves what share of the funds?

    It should be noted that Tory is not proposing to immediately allow this to occur, rather former premier Bill Davis will lead a commission to figure out the best way to bring religious schools into the public system.

    While a long time advocate against faith based schooling, primarily for the reason that I feel kids who will work in a multicultural environment of the future need to grow up in a non-segregated public schooling system. Yet, in Ontario today we discriminate by allowing Catholic schools access to public funds yet withhold the public purse from other faiths. Thus I see nothing wrong in extending the purse strings to schools of other faith. Either we take away funding from Catholic schools (I would strongly support this position) or we fund all faiths.

    While details are scant at this point, I like one phrase in Tory's proposal. He said "the best way to bring religious schools into the public system".

    This would mean certain disadvantages students of such faith-based schools now suffer (mainly due to lack of funds) might go away.

  • Taught by inexperienced teachers with no teaching credentials.
  • Lack of proper equipment such as a gym or computer labs.
  • Not having teachers of a different faith.
  • ... and so on.

    knb said...

    This is a very complex issue my friend.

    I laughed out loud when I heard he'd appoint Davis.

    Perhap's he counts on few of us still being around when he was Premier. I was in High School then, my Dad is still here, but he's 75.

    Davis was the joke of the province and to have him head this, is foolish. Yes, he worked things out for the Catholics in the end, but look at his comments and record.

    It's not an easy issue.

    Tory is a Harris tory. I do not trust him. Full Stop.

    mezba said...

    Knb: true that it is a complex issue. I am afraid I wasn't in Canada during Davis's time, but in my opinion the crux of the problem is two fold.

    1) we have one group (Catholic school board) that is funded while others are not. In my view no one should be funded, but that's not the case.

    2) some people are going to send their kids to religious school anyways. If those schools can be brought under provincial regulation, those kids given facilities same as others and there be accountability in the schools, then surely it is good.

    Though I have yet to meet someone who can give me a satisfactory answer as to why ANY one would need to go to a religious faith based school.

    Markus D. said...

    It baffles me that such ridiculous superstitions are legitimized like this. It angers me that public money is used to propagate such superstitions. This is a clear double effect: a) money for education b) propagation of superstitious belief.

    In other words, nothing complicated at all.

    Anonymous said...

    As a couple with no kids, we do pay towards public education in our property taxes. We don't mind this as a citizen of Canada (born and raised) to participate in the education of our youth.

    By why should I be responsible for the religious education of the youth? They have their family and churches/synagogues/mosques, etc. to learn and practise their religion.

    I can't imagine what this would cost - out of this world.

    I think Tory is trying to get the ethnic vote.

    This is an insult to expect taxpayers to pay for someone's religion.

    Anonymous said...

    lmao. Problem is faith based schools don't want in the public system. They dontmeet the funding formula or the provincial curriculum. Those that do get funding by the way. There is a Jewish shcool in Hamilton that gets public funding. If you don't meet the curriculum and you don't meet the funding formula, no funding! Same as private schools. Sorry if rich people want their kids to get special treatment or if religious people want to teach their children hatred lies and ignorance, let them pay.

    mezba said...

    Markus: The only teaching at a faith-based school that you would consider 'superstitious' could be religion, every thing else would be taught as per Ontario curriculum. To me, the only thing differentiating faith based schooling is setting, uniform, regulations and extra religious services.

    Anon (8:31): Your points are valid when arguing against funding for religious schooling. Unfortunately in Ontario we do it already (Catholic schools) so it would be discriminatory not to fund other faiths.

    Anon (10:51): Your statements are not supported by facts.

    Samira Mitchell said...

    Catholic schools are funded as part of the British North America Act of 1867. Their funding can be removed, and I believe it eventually will be, but it will require a constitutional change. This is a debate for the future. The debate in 2007 is whether or not public funds should be used to fund religious schools. I say no. We need to take steps to bring our children together, not to segregate them and have them educated in silo environments. Let's entrench the notion that we will no longer accept that religious schools are funded by taxpayers. Once that is done, then let us begin the constitutional debate to remove public funding for the Catholic school system.

    mezba said...

    Samira Mitchell: I was reading this column by Moira MacDonald in the Sun.

    Yes, the Constitution Act signed in 1867 gives Ontario Catholics this right, but Quebec and Newfoundland both ended the same right by seeking constitutional amendments a decade ago. If fairness matters, either Ontario does the same or we fund other religions' schools too.

    So it seems while the 1867 act gives Catholics that right, it wasn't enacted until the 70s - I don't know why.

    And let's face it - Ontario is a different kettle of fish. No politician would touch that issue and remove funding from the Catholic schools.

    Seems to me the easier solution is to extend funding to others.

    Samira Mitchell said...

    Yes, simply extending funding is the "easier solution"; but that doesn't make it the right solution. The negative impact of this easier solution is too great for our pluralistic society and is very short-sighted. I do believe the Catholic system will disappear at some point. Policy needs to look at far-reaching effects of its implementation as well. I have regularly read readers comments in opposition to the Catholic funding and that is why I believe, that at some time and through some gradual mechanism, this funding will be halted and there will be only secular, publicly funded school system in Ontario. The schools have religious accommodation policies and character education programs were introduced in 2007 to foster respect for others in the students. The only reason Mr. Tory made this promise - and he did it in haste -was to garner votes from a segment of the population.

    Samira Mitchell said...

    It's shortsighted to say "they have it so we should have it" when stating that all faiths should be funded because the Catholics are funded. The relevant question to ask is whether or not we want religious schools to be funded at all by our public funds. If the funding is extended, then we will probably never get to the state of having a single, secular, public school system. This is the key question for voters to ask themselves.

    mezba said...

    The thing is, Samira, no politician will EVER say let's remove the funding for Catholics. Too many votes to be lost and no one will ever say it. Therefore I don't think the Catholic system will EVER be stripped of funding.

    SUZANNE said...

    One way or another, Catholics are going to isolate themselves to teach their kids the faith. That's what they've always done, that's what they will always do, and it's the same for other religions. Look at the States: Catholic schools aren't publicly funded, and parents send their kids to Catholic schools.

    mezba said...

    Suzanne: Hmm. I did not know that Catholic education was not funded in the States. Either way, it's also not in other provinces (barring Quebec). I am saying it should be a level playing field for all - either fund all, or fund none.

    Samira said...

    And I'm saying, that it will be just one secular publicly funded school system in the future. There are politicians courageous enough to take tough stands on many issues rather than pandering to voters. Kathleen Wynne is of those politicians. John Tory is not. Mr. Tory sent all his children to private schools.

    mezba said...

    Samira, if Kathleen was truly courageous she would have taken the stand to abolish the catholic system. Yet she didn't. She is gonna get turfed by John Tory.

    Samira said...

    The public school system was hammered by the last Tory government. It needs to be rebuilt and the damage done by the Tories needs to be done. That has to be the focus right now. Anything else will have to wait.

    mezba said...

    that would just be ignoring this problem or shoving it to one side. Imagine how much money could be saved by shutting down the Catholic system and reintegrating those students into the public system - that is one sure way to 'fix' the 'broken' system - yet that won't happen unless this issue of separate faith based funding discrimination is raised.