Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Faith-based Schools and Government Dollars

I decided to weigh in on this debate since it seems to be getting so much media play time during this Ontario election campaign. For those of you still unaware, John Tory, the Ontario Conservative leader has promised that, if elected, he will extend full funding to all faith-based groups. Currently, that benefit is enjoyed only by the Catholics.

I'm of two minds on this. I have three boys and we've used different approaches to educating them. We've done homeschooling, Christian school and the public school system. Each of them has its own strengths and weaknesses. Different children would benefit more from one than another.
My biggest issue with most media commentary on this issue is the lack of fairness and the hysterical reaction to faith-based schooling. Dalton McGuinty has raised fears that full funding will lead to a ghettoizing of Ontario, leaving children unable to function in a multi-cultural environment. Of course, he is a product of the fully funded Catholic system and his family actively participates as well. His position is hypocritical in the extreme. Other provinces have demonstrated that the social fabric can withstand extending funding to others. It appears that the knee-jerk reaction of many is to cast this as a public vs. private school war which must be won at all costs. Both can obviously survive and probably be the better for the process.
At the heart of this issue is fairness. Why should the Catholics have full funding and not other religious groups? Even the United Nations has ruled this discriminatory and prejudicial. Parents who choose to have their children in a non-Catholic faith-based school must currently pay above and beyond their taxes to do so.
In my opinion a better option is the school charter system for all schools. Bring a healthy dose of competition into the educational system. Under this model, each parent receives a voucher for each school-aged student. That voucher can be used to purchase enrollment at any school. This allows for schools to specialize while maintaining a core curriculum. It would allow for gifted students to flourish while ensuring that no student gets left behind.
At the very least, parents of students in faith-based private schools ought to have a tax deuction equivalent to their fair share of the education tax in order to offset the tuition they pay out of pocket. But regardless, let's end this fear-mongering that the sky is going to fall if we simply level the playing field for all students.
Post a Comment