Thanks to CFIC Regina for bringing attention to a disturbing article published in the Ottawa Citizen which offers a great deal of rhetoric and fear mongering about the potential implications of the defunding of Catholic Schools. While the three provinces which continue to fund separate Catholic School boards have a vested interest in this dialogue the issue should interest all Canadians who are concerned about human rights.
The opinion column, written by Robert Smol, a teacher in Ontario’s Catholic School system, “Think twice before you argue for the end of the Catholic school system” offers the following arguments against amalgamating school boards:
- some schools will close so students may have to change schools;
- there will be no savings since each student still requires the same instruction;
- there will be reassignments and layoffs among superintendents, consultants, head office staff, principals, resource teachers, educational assistants, secretaries, custodians and teachers.
Currently, schools close in many neighbourhoods as demographics change. No matter the reason, the requirement to change routines and attend a new school can be briefly upsetting to families. However, after the initial fear of the unknown, almost all students settle into their new environment without significant impact. The big difference in the potential amalgamation of school systems would be that many children who currently have to travel to attend school, might be able to attend a school closer to home, meet and befriend children from their community and reduce the cost and environmental impact of busing.
It is interesting that the author first posits that there will be no savings and then goes on to argue about massive lay-offs at all levels of the school system.
Civil Rights in Public Education (CRIPE) reports that the extra cost of maintaining two school boards in Ontario is over $1 billion annually. At a time when there are significant cuts to the province’s education budget and increases to class size, amalgamating the two school boards appears to be a perfect opportunity to find savings without negatively impacting children’s learning conditions or teachers’ working conditions.
Smol cryptically alludes to the loss of crosses, statues of saints and bibles on the bookshelves. We would argue that these icons of faith belong in people’s homes and places of worship, not in schools. Not only does the amalgamation of public and catholic school systems offer savings; it offers an opportunity for people of different faiths and people of no faith to know one another; it offers a future of hope and understanding.
Do you have something to contribute to the dialogue on the funding of separate school systems? Do you have experience in a province which discontinued funding schools based on religion? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
Comment on “Defunding Separate School Boards: Rhetoric and Reality”
First, there are not two school boards in Ontario as the quote from CRIPE misstates, but rather 76, divided among four systems. The two main systems, English-language secular and English-language Catholic have the greatest number of students.
The idea of “defunding” Catholic schools is problematic. It implies that somehow the Catholic Church owns the schools and they could continue to stay open without government funding. In fact, all publicly-funded schools belong to their respective school boards as established by the province. Once the separate school boards are gone, the schools and the lands they sit on would revert to the Crown, that is, to the province.
Most opponents of government-funded religion would prefer the abolition of the faith-school systems, English Catholic and French Catholic. This was done around 1998 in both Quebec and Newfoundland and should be done in Ontario now. Interestingly, Robert Smol fails to cite examples of transitional chaos and misery in the provinces where publicly-funded RC schools were eliminated. His predictions are entirely speculative and imaginary.
The cost savings from abolition would be real, however, because a large number of RC parents would send their children to private Catholic schools entirely at their own expense—and at no expense to the Ministry of Education.
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