Monday, March 17, 2008

IDiots Get Public Funding for their Schools in Alberta

 
Scott Rowed is one of the Alberta representatives for the Centre for Inquiry. He has an op-ed piece in Saturday's Edmonton Journal where he points out the dangers of giving public money to faith-based schools. These schools are permitted by law to discriminate on the basis of religious belief. That's not new. Here in Ontario we have a Roman Catholic school system that is fully funded by taxpayer money.

The shocking thing is the extent to which some faith-based schools will go to exclude rational thought and genuine education. For example, Scott says,
To have this choice of placing their children into a faith school, parents must obtain a letter from a preacher praising their church devotion and sign a statement of faith. This quote, from the constitution and bylaws of Fort McMurray Christian School Society, is typical: "We believe the Genesis account of creation is to be understood literally; that man was created in God's own image and after His own likeness; that man's creation was not by evolution or change of species or development through interminable periods of time from lower to higher form."

Parents who believe that the first cowboy saddled up a triceratops have more choice as their children can attend either a faith school or a public school. On the other hand, Christians who accept evolution, non-believers, and followers of other faiths can enrol their children only in a public school.
I agree with Scott. This is outrageous. Any school system that explicitly denies one of the fundamental facts of science should not receive a single penny of taxpayer's money.1

There's only one rational solution to the problem. The government must fund a single secular school system. That means eliminating funding for the Catholic schools as well as the IDiot schools. If you live in Ontario, join the One School System Network and work toward achieving this goal.


1. I wonder if Ben Stein will make a movie about this kind of discrimination? It's obvious that any teacher who believes in evolution will never get a job in one of these schools and any student who starts to believe in evolution will be EXPELLED.

[Photo Credit: Rahime at Prayer for Rain]

32 comments :

  1. Speaking of IDiots, have you seen Dr. Egnor's latest? He ... um ... mentions your name in passing.

    www.evolutionnews.org/2008/03/dr_larry_moran_recovering_darw.html

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  2. Sadly, I think too many of our fellow Ontarians think evolution is not important.

    The article in The Star about the Darwin exhibit seemed to say that Darwin's greatest contribution was showing us that man and dinosaur never lived together.

    http://www.thestar.com/News/Ideas/article/308305

    I'd love to see some TTC ads like the "Poetry on the Way" that were all about scientific concepts. Educate people on the way to work.

    I'll draw if you write them, sir. :-)

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  3. All of this is interesting but seems to be missing some main points. Education is paid by all of us and all of us should have a say in how our kids are educated. Schools are primarily about education and so long as the basic education, teacher certification, phys ed, sex/health education, all comply with government guidelines the educational component should be funded. All across Canada kids attend a diverse range of specialty and alternative schools including arts-based, sports-based, language-based, faith-based, socially conscious, environmentally conscious, behavioural modification, special needs, etc schools. In downtown Toronto there is a high school focusing on the needs of Gay/Lesbian/Trans-gender teens with emphasis on history and literature relating to their issues.

    This is called School Choice!

    You or I may not choose many of these types of schools for our kids but if we want our interests respected we must understand and respect other interest.

    As far as the specific discussion on faith-based education, I would like to point out that approximately 50 years ago almost ALL schools were faith-based since it was the faith communities who developed schools as we know them.

    What we need to focus on is equality and respect; either we fund all reasonable choices in education where the guidelines are followed or we do not have ANY school choice at all. The current situation in Ontario where one third of all public students attend publicly funded Catholic schools from JK to 12 (the Constitution guarantees only until grade 9) while other faith-based schools receive zero is discrimination (as ruled by a non-political UN human rights committee comprised of international judges) putting Canada in violation of international human rights laws.

    Quebec eliminated the Constitutional guaranteed and now funds all non public schools at 60%of the public school rate. This encourages parents to send their kids to either French or English secular schools while still allowing parents to direct their education taxes to partially fund their school choice, be it arts, sports or faith-based. A reasonable compromise and lesson in respect and equality!

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  4. Gila says,

    All of this is interesting but seems to be missing some main points. Education is paid by all of us and all of us should have a say in how our kids are educated.

    That's not correct. There are lots and lots of things we pay for where we rely on experts to make decisions.

    For example, we pay bundles of money for our health care system but that doesn't mean that the average taxpayer has the right to make decisions about whether quack medicine should be covered.

    Similarly, we spend billions of dollars on our military but that doesn't mean you or I get a vote when it comes to buying new APV's.

    Education is a serious issue. The decision about how society should, or should not, educate its children is complex. Just because there are some kooks who want to brainwash their children does not give them the right to do it. The whole point behind public education is to provide the best possible education for all children in our society.

    Those who want to opt out of this goal are the ones who represent the problem, not the solution.

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  5. Do we have a health care system where only Catholics get free cataract surgery while all other faiths pay?!? Imagine that!

    Do we have a military or health care system that only serves non-faith-based communities? We all benefit from our military and health care systems even if we don't have a say in how they are funded. In education politicians mandate the curriculum and other aspects; parents have little input. The question we are discussing is merely the funding, not how the schools are run. In fact, with no funding there is no government guidelines or supervision!

    All provinces except the Maritimes and Newfoundland fund faith-based schools and I don't see that changing any time soon.

    I am sticking to my premise that so long as the basic curriculum is taught and the government's guidelines are met these parents should be able to direct at least part of their education taxes to cover the basic education. If the parents pay for the religious component, as in many provinces, then it should be equal for all faiths.

    I cannot imagine that you would think it is okay for Ontario to have almost 60,000 students in completely unregulated and unsupervised non-Catholic faith-based schools. Wouldn't we be better off to fund the basic curriculum and have a say in how these schools are run and what is taught?

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  6. Gila says,

    Do we have a health care system where only Catholics get free cataract surgery while all other faiths pay?!? Imagine that!


    Hmmm ... I see you have a problem with either (a) reading comprehension, or (b) simple logic, or both.

    Everyone can go to public schools. Not everyone can decide what gets taught in those schools.

    Everyone can get free health care. Not everyone can decide what's covered and what's not covered.

    Now that wasn't so hard, was it?

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  7. That's where we differ!

    Everyone can get basic health care ("public schools") but only Catholics can get specialty procedures ("cataract surgery") as well.

    Try to follow:
    Catholics can go to public schools OR Catholic schools. Other faiths only get the basic education.

    You do not support specialty schools, particularly faith-based - I get that. What I am against is one third of the province receiving school choices that the rest do not have.

    Everyone should be funded the same:
    full, partial or no funding for specialty schools for their community.

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  8. Gila says,

    Try to follow:
    Catholics can go to public schools OR Catholic schools. Other faiths only get the basic education.

    You do not support specialty schools, particularly faith-based - I get that. What I am against is one third of the province receiving school choices that the rest do not have.

    Everyone should be funded the same:
    full, partial or no funding for specialty schools for their community.


    Gila, did you read the last paragraph of my posting? The one that says ....

    There's only one rational solution to the problem. The government must fund a single secular school system. That means eliminating funding for the Catholic schools as well as the IDiot schools. If you live in Ontario, join the One School System Network and work toward achieving this goal.

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  9. Gila: You do not support specialty schools, particularly faith-based - I get that. What I am against is one third of the province receiving school choices that the rest do not have.
    Everyone should be funded the same: full, partial or no funding for specialty schools for their community.


    Gila is right insofar as saying we really must fund all or none, and if it is to be all, the funding must be provided without discrimination (an equitable level of funding for all).

    One thing the last Ontario election made clear, however, is that pigs will fly before Ontarians ever consent to the further religious fragmentation of their school system. Poll after poll showed that most Ontarians want to see an end to the Catholic system and the establishment of one publicly funded school system. If you care about fairness and your own self interest, Gila, then that is what you and the religious school lobby should help us push for now.

    When the largest religious minority in the province (Catholics -- 34% of the Ontario population according to the 2001 census) is in the same boat as other faiths (no school funding), they will actually have an incentive to really help other faith groups get funding -- if for no other reason than naked self interest. Full funding for all religious schools will never be in the cards, as the last election made clear, but non-Catholic and Catholic groups working together will stand the best chance of securing the sort of partial funding that exists in other provinces (but it will still be a tough battle for you, IMHO).

    Not that they'd ever admit it, but that would likely be a blessing for the Catholic schools, as when parents have to pay something (anything) you can generally guarantee they will be committed to the mission of the school. As a parent who uses a private religious school, you know that. As it stands now, publicly funded Catholic schools are pretty much Catholic in name only, with fewer than 20% of the families using them attending Church with any regularity. Some parents in the Catholic system openly resent the religious trimmings. They would vanish overnight if they had to pay something and the religious character of the Catholic schools would become far more evident as a result.

    Right now, the Catholic vested interests offer nothing more than ineffectual platitudes to other faiths because they know that full funding for other religious schools will only divide a limited pie even further and be financially detrimental to existing publicly funded schools -- including their own. Most of the Catholic vested interests (except for OECTA perhaps) say they support funding for other religious schools, but don't you believe it. If they really wanted other faiths to have funding, you'd have thought they might have applauded the political party that proposed to make that a reality (the PCs). Instead, they undermined the PCs during the election by issuing news releases applauding Liberal education announcements. Their true colours shining through.

    Polls during the election showed that only about 15% of the electorate supported the PC plan to extend full public funding to other recognized faiths (Another conundrum: How would Tory have decided which faiths were "deserving" of funding and which not? No government should even go there). Given that Catholics are 34% of the population, you don't have to be a math whiz to see that most Catholics either support one school system or are unabashed and unapologetic bigots who believe it is perfectly fine that they have greater choices in publicly funded education and related employment than anyone else. I would like to be charitable and think that most of them are one school system proponents, but I've encountered enough of the bigots to know their numbers are significant.
    Push for fairness Gila. Push for one school system. Help us paint McGuinty into a corner and shame him into action (if the man is capable of feeling shame -- I'm starting to wonder).

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  10. Leonard, public opinion polls are not a reasonable way to decide public policies relating to minority rights since the majority will never offer significant to the minorities, esp if they perceive it to "cost" them. Could you imagine a poll asking Ontarians if they think we should allow zoning changes to build more mosques and synagogues?! In comparison the faith-based school issue would look like it garnered significant support seeing as 15% of the province supported something that only positively affected 2%. Why have politicians at all if we can just poll everyone and pass on the results to the civil servants?!

    Just so we are clear re One School Network: There will be NO School Choice, right?! No French schools, no French immersion. No gifted or special needs schools. No behavior modification schools or Gay/Lesbian/Trangender schools. No arts-based or sports-based schools. No Native or enviromental focus schools. No social conscious schools. No alternative schools that go year round. No schools to specialize in immigrants and their needs. No religious programs at any schools, right?

    Because, Larry, what is an "IDiot" religion for one person is a way of life for another. The secular school system is based on what accademic experts are calling the new religion: Humanism. Others are calling environmental focus a type of religion as well.

    I would suggest that most "faith" people do not take their heritage literally - rather they are attempting to be spiritual in nature, give their kids an identity, respect the traditions of their culture. While their are some faith communities who seem to hide from the outside world the vast majority are well integrated and provide community service volunteer hours that benefit all of us. Respect and caring are the basis of most faith-based communities and their schools.


    All I am suggesting is that we cannot call ourselves a multicultural pluralistic society that provides heritage grants for cultural events that focus on faith groups without recognizing faith-based communities' needs. Why celebrate multiculturalism and then try to assimilate everyone? This is Canada, the mosaic, where people are integrated, not assimilated. Not the U.S. with a separation of church and state (doesn't even exist) melting pot.

    The UN Human Rights committee of non-political international judicial experts is preparing a third ruling on the issue. How can Canada criticize Human Rights abusing countries when we are in violation ourselves?

    Larry, I am not frustrated that you do not share my opinions but I am unclear why you appear frustrated with me. We have more in common than you might realize. We both do not support the status quo in Ontario! I am willing to listen to reason and compromise; hopefully you are as well.

    Faith-based schools are on the increase in part due to the lack of discipline in our public schools. I still believe it is in everyone's best interest to partially fund at least the general curriculum, with conditions of course. For ex: it has been suggested that Creationism could be restricted to religious classes while science follows Darwinian and other main stream programs. This is how it is dealt with in the Jewish school systems I know.

    Happy Easter!
    Happy Persian New Year!
    Happy Purim! (Jewish Persian festival where kids dress up and get candy - coincidence that same week as Persian New Year?!?)

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  11. I see another solution, the one we have here (in France for instance). There is a public education system, and a private one. Private schools get some money for the State, so they can ask for reasonable fees and not be strictly reserved to a rich elite. On the other hand, they're submitted to the same standards and checks as public schools. Teaching creationism, for example, would be just as out of the question as teaching that 2+2=5. And in most cases they don't discriminate on religion. Catholic schools actually welcome many Muslim pupils; they don't compell anyone to attend Mass (but of course they offer the possibility). Actually the main reason most people send their children to religious private schools (there are also many secular private ones) is because discipline is supposed to be stricter.

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  12. Gila asks,

    Larry, I am not frustrated that you do not share my opinions but I am unclear why you appear frustrated with me.

    Because your first comment was based on an illogical premise. Your second comment also contained irrational statements. And your third comment misinterpreted my position in spite of the fact that it was clearly stated in the posting.

    Just so we are clear re One School Network: There will be NO School Choice, right?! No French schools, no French immersion. No gifted or special needs schools. No behavior modification schools or Gay/Lesbian/Trangender schools. No arts-based or sports-based schools. No Native or enviromental focus schools. No social conscious schools. No alternative schools that go year round. No schools to specialize in immigrants and their needs. No religious programs at any schools, right?

    No. There will be lots of separate programs based on student needs and abilities. What we need to eliminate is schools based on the religious upbringing of their parents—especially when those religions insist on teaching children things that are demonstrably false.

    Gila, why are you so afraid to mix your children in with children of other faiths?

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  13. We all agree that it is wrong for Ontario to fund a separate education system for one sector. Indefensible in that it duplicates services and that it discriminates against all others. The only fix is to form one school system, then all alternative schools can be considered on a level playing field.
    The consideration of which alternatives should be funded, to which extent, and who should make those decisions still needs to happen. A case can be made for or against funding, or partially funding, religious schools. A case can be made for against having local 'school board' type entities with some decision making power, or making all decisions at the Ministry level.
    But regardless of those important issues, the issue of the Roman Catholic system is clear. They continue to use their constitutional right to discriminate against students and staff and they have shown no signs of willingness to move forward on religious equity issues. Just last year I attended a workshop on Equity that included the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board's Equity officer, and in a post workshop interchange he stated the the Catholic system will remain until the Constitution is amended. Well, the Constitution does not require that the Catholic system discriminate- they choose to do that and they have gone to court to maintain their legal right to do that. They will not choose to act ethically, so the Ontario government must force the issue. They have the public support to change the system, they have the precedent of NFLD and Quebec to follow, they just need the backbone. Even if they misguidedly choose to maintain the Catholic schools, they can at least legislate that enrolment, employment, and advancement be open to all and that no one in their schools will be compelled to attend any religious programs or classes.
    McGuinty and Wynne are in the driver's seat here and we all need to push them to act. Too bad the Catholics won't come to the table on this- I think the people in the Catholic system support openness and even one school system, the stumbling block is the Catholic school board members.

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  14. Gila: "Just so we are clear re One School Network: There will be NO School Choice, right?! No French schools, no French immersion. No gifted or special needs schools. No behavior modification schools or Gay/Lesbian/Trangender schools. No arts-based or sports-based schools. No Native or enviromental focus schools. No social conscious schools. No alternative schools that go year round. No schools to specialize in immigrants and their needs. No religious programs at any schools, right?"

    I thought you knew more about us by now Gila. Either you are jumping to wild, unsubstantiated conclusions or are deliberately mischaracterizing the aims of One School System Network members, including our group Education Equality in Ontario.

    We don't take issue with school choice and alternative schools, as long as the choices are not too numerous (costly redundancy and overlap, undermines neighbourhood schools) and do not segregate children or discriminate against them (or their teachers) on the basis of race, religion, or ethnic group. I'd add to that sexual orientation. I am against public funding for religious, native, black, and gay/lesbian/transgender schools -- all of which segregate and discriminate on the basis of children’s (and staff's) intrinsic characteristics.

    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, lost economies of scale, and overlapping attendance zones with their attendant costs. Arts, technical, and sports schools do not segregate by race, religion, ethnic group, or sexual orientation. School specialization by subject area emphasis is quite benign and non-polarizing -- something that cannot be said of school specialization by race, religion, ethnic group, or sexual orientation.

    French schools do not discriminate on prohibited grounds either. 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 -- the courts have added sexual orientation in case law). 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 per pupil per year, 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 Educational 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 a wonderful idea that would strengthen the Franco-Ontarian community and save a pile of money to invest in the classroom.

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  15. Larry: ”Gila, why are you so afraid to mix your children in with children of other faiths?”

    To understand why many orthodox religious people feel so strongly about segregating their children into religiously pure enclaves, go to Google and search on “silent holocaust” and/or “intermarriage holocaust”. You will get thousands of hits. See also this story.

    According to these web sites (and I have no reason to doubt them), religious integration dramatically increases the probability that members of small minority religions will intermarry with those from larger faith groups. It is of special concern to the Jewish community, as they are one of the smallest faith groups (and 70% of the “fish” in the Ontario “sea” are Christian). Apparently, Jewish children who are not sequestered in Jewish religious schools are far more likely than their sequestered counterparts to marry a person from a larger faith group and to ultimately leave the Jewish faith.

    As a practising Christian who takes the time and effort to educate my own children in my faith (it is an individual responsibility, not a state one, after all), I can empathize with their concerns – to a point. I would prefer that my children marry another Christian, but I do not believe it is or should be a state responsibility to intervene to increase the likelihood of that happening.

    In our diverse, multicultural society, children must rub elbows with each other in a meaningful way at some point in their development if they are to ever to develop a comfort level with the diversity that is more and more becoming an Ontario hallmark.

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  16. Leonard, kids don't usually meet who they marry in elementary school (only a tiny percentage of Jewish kids go to Jewish high schools while over a third go for elementary school.)Those who attend at the elementary level are able to read, write and speak Hebrew. They know their religion, customs and history. It is this KNOWLEDGE which makes them far more likely to identify as a Jew and chose to make an effort to marry a Jew as well as have thier children identify as Jews and be educated in their faith. I went to Jewish elementary school and public high school. In university I was the only female Jew in a residence of 2,000. Yet... I still married a Jew (who went to Jewish school) and educated my four children in Jewish school. This is how we have survived and I will never apologize for my support for the Jewish school system. Our students do exceptionally well although I must be fair and state that those who struggle accademically often leave for the public school system if their family is not observant which can skew the statistics a bit.

    I would like to respond to the writer from France and say that his system is EXACTLY what the non-Catholic faith-based schools were hoping for in the last election! Faith-based schools partially subsidized for the general studies. The schools were willing to co-operate with government guidelines including teacher credentials, open enrolment, curriculum, sex ed, etc.

    As far as not understanding One School's approach to School Choice:
    Leonard, you are playing a game of symantics! If a ski school in Collingwood only attracts white Christians is it "segregating"? If a Jewish school has open enrolment but only attracts Jews is it "segregating"? If a classical music focus school only attracts Asians will it be a "segregated" school? And if an Africentric school focus only attracts blacks???

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  17. Gila: ”Leonard, kids don't usually meet who they marry in elementary school (only a tiny percentage of Jewish kids go to Jewish high schools while over a third go for elementary school.)”

    Perhaps Gila, but the more children are sequestered in segregated, homogeneous environments, the more likely they are to marry within their homogenous group. That is well documented in all these “silent holocaust” and “intermarriage holocaust” web sites (see Jews face 'holocaust' by interfaith marriages). And the prevention of intermarriage is undeniably a big part of the motivation for religious segregation.

    It is not necessary for children to be segregated to learn about their religion, customs, and language. Hindu, Sikh, Christian, and probably other groups do that quite successfully through voluntary participation in religious activities and through heritage language programs offered on weekends. Their children still attend public schools for academic subjects (three Rs) and rub elbows with other kids from different backgrounds. They don’t lose their uniqueness (contrary to the assimilation myth), but do have a chance to develop a common sense of citizenry with those who are not quite like them. They also learn that in essence, they are not so different after all.

    Gila: ”As far as not understanding One School's approach to School Choice: Leonard, you are playing a game of symantics! If a ski school in Collingwood only attracts white Christians is it "segregating"? If a Jewish school has open enrolment but only attracts Jews is it "segregating"? If a classical music focus school only attracts Asians will it be a "segregated" school? And if an Africentric school focus only attracts blacks???”

    Religious and racial schools that are in policy open to those outside of their faith or race will in practice still segregate, as it is highly unlikely that parents from outside of those groups will put their children in those environments. Will non-Jewish parents stampede to enrol their kids in Jewish schools if they were non-discriminatory? Will non-black parents stampede to enrol their kids in black schools if they were non-discriminatory? No – both types of schools contribute to religious and racial segregation in a major way and should therefore be discouraged (through modest or -- even better, no public funding). Religious schools also contribute to racial segregation. Many races are predominantly, or at least more likely to be, of one faith. Latin Americans and Filipinos for example, are almost exclusively Catholic. You are not likely to find many in Ontario’s public schools. Jews, on the other hand, are almost exclusively white.

    Arts, technical, and sports schools, on the other hand, are far less likely to segregate children on religious and racial grounds. You are not comparing apples to apples in suggesting otherwise. Interest in the arts, sports, or technical programs transcends race, religion, and ethnic group. But if by chance, such an alternative school was found to promote religious, racial, or ethnic segregation, then yes, I think it would have to be reconsidered.

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  18. Gila, your support for funding for faith based schools is clear, but I still don't understand why you reject a one school system model. These are two separate, but linked, issues. Under one school system the Catholic and Public schools would be merged into one secular system that would be open to all. Within that system alternative schools would continue to exist, and the ministry does need to set guidelines for them. That's a serious issue that needs thorough exploration- it's a slippery slope, too often elected school board members have supported alt. schools to placate a special interest group. But, that issue is not the central one school system issue.
    I think you avoid supporting one school system because you view the Catholic system as a tool for your argument for funding, but it's not. No other group is going to be given anything like their system. You're more likely to get funding from a public school board as an 'alternative' school. Only Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Ontario still have a separate system for Catholics, but, as you know, many other provinces do provide public funds to private schools. So, why don't you support ending the supremacy of Catholics?

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  19. Paula, what you fail to mention is that Quebec TRICKED the Catholics into agreeing to two school systems split along liguistic lines of French and English by verbally promising that their schools would still be fully funded, just under the new school boards, if they agreed to the end of the Constitutionally guaranteed funding model.

    Where is MY guarantee that if I fight for One School System where "the Catholic and Public schools would be merged into one secular system that would be open to all" there would be alternative faith-based schools. Why not state that from the get go? And why harp on "secular"?

    One School Board is what you are really advocating and it would have to be clear that faith-based schools would be funded for everything except the religious studies so long as they followed the criteria to get my support. I have yet to hear One Schoolers advocate for any funding model that welcomes faith-based schools (as evidenced by this very blog which is anti-faith communities.)

    I think it is a cop-out to hide behind creationism and other aspects of religion by taking them in a literal sense and suggesting anyone observing a faith is an "IDiot"! I would imagine those who enjoy fantasy/science fiction, astrology, etc would also be frowned upon! Oh well... so much for tolerance and mutual respect!

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  20. Hi Gila,
    Let me restate that the central goal of the one school system movement is to end the preferential treatment of Catholic people in public funded education Ontario, for both economic and ethical reasons. All citizens deserve equitable treatment and the Catholic school system is clearly discriminatory.
    Funding of other individual faith based schools has been rejected by Ontarians- perhaps a wise and fair Ministry of Education could work with faith communities to help ensure they are treated fairly and their religious needs are met within public schools. But lack of funding for other religious schools is not a rationale for continuation of the Separate Catholic school system. Supporting one school system does not mean you agree that no faith school should ever be funded in any way, it means you support human rights.
    Re. "harping" on secular. I think that's the only premise a public system can have if it's to serve all students without subjecting anyone to religious practices or beliefs that are not their own. Secular means without religion, it doesn't mean atheist or humanist, just free from religion so all can partake. Do you have another suggestion?
    Paula

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  21. As Leonard pointed out, choices in education cost extra, be it arts-focused schools or faith-based schools.

    I would gladly support a one school system which fully funded French and English schools with some specialty programs within these schools.

    ALL other school choices where the entire school focused on the arts or a culture could be under the umbrella of the main school board and receive significant funding in the neighbourhood of 80% (like Alberta) while participating in teacher development days, sex ed, health programming, teacher certification and unions and follow the general curriculum and offer open enrolment.
    I would only support this if there was no differentiation between School Choice where the school focus was arts, sports, culture or religion.

    I would also not be against providing a smaller amount of funding (50% in Alberta) for schools that teach the general curriculum without any adhearance to the other guidelines.

    My main point, which I am not conveying very well, is that I support the dismantling of the Catholic separate system so long as school choices will be funded equally and fairly. I continue to believe that there should be no difference in the funding of arts/sports or cultural/religious schools. The other provinces generally don't make distinctions betweem them.

    It is interesting to note that in Quebec the French schools are funded at a slightly higher rate so a Jewish Sephardic School(from French speaking countries) receives more funding than an English Catholic school!

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  22. Great to hear you would support one school system with French and English divisions. The member organizations of the One School System Network (www.onessn.org)all agree on that. Levels of funding for school choice and decision making re. school choice will remain another aspect of education to be debated. The current model with elected boards, paid by the M of Ed., is not perfect. Personally, I supported McGuinty in his statement to the TDSB that he would not stop them from developing an Africentric school, but the Ministry would provide no additional funding for it. That kind of financial limitation can help focus school boards on providing the best ed. opportunities for all students in the population. But again, the first thing is to form one school system and end the truly discriminatory status quo.

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  23. What I support is any school funding model that is reasonable! We all agree that it is NOT reasonable to continue a separate Catholic school system.

    Any school funding model must consider that one third of Ontario's students attend funded Catholic schools. If the present Catholic system was abolished I would guess that approx 40% of these Catholic students would transfer to partially funded Catholic schools if the cost was low ($1-2,000/yr). In Quebec, the parental portion is in the neighbourhood of $4,000 with the government contributing approx $6,000.

    We can debate all we want but no changes will occur in Ontario that leave the Catholic parents who are committed to faith-based education high and dry.

    If One School System wants political support it will have to come up with an Alberta or Quebec style model where school choices are discouraged (by offering only partial funding) yet school choices are available.

    Partial funding would allow parents to direct at least a significant portion of their education taxes to their school choice while ensuring government guidelines are met. The trick is to offer a large enough parental fee component to discourage families from leaving the public school system yet a reasonably low enough fee so that families can manage (albeit with some sacrifices.)

    During the past two years I have heard repeatedly that Ontarians are anxious about the level of tolerance and Canadiana being taught at faith-based schools. With over 50,000 students attending non-funded schools which are mostly unregulated, wouldn't it be preferable to offer partial funding in exchange for some supervision and control?

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  24. I disagree with your premise that we have to propose a fully fleshed out alternative 'choice' strategy before challenging the current system's dicrimination. Our current or future government can acknowledge the system is discriminatory, and they can move towards merging the Catholic and Public systems into one secular system. Boards can continue to fund alternative schools as they currently do until a better system is developed. Change can happen with a minimum of disruption, and nothing has to happen overnight. We should not let a lack of consensus on how best to fund alternative schools stop us from advocating for that for which we do have consensus- one school system.

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  25. Did I say we HAVE to?!? What I am suggesting is to develop a model that satisfies as many groups as possible. One School System did not succeed in the last election even with broad support because it made politicians nervous to suggest dismantling the Catholic system with no funding model in place to at least partially fund parents who are willing to pay for the religious component of Catholic education.

    I would like to see as many groups as possible supporting a funding model that is fair and reasonable. In this manner we have the best chance of gaining political support. Divided, we all lose!

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  26. The problem is that you're conflating political will with the desires of the electorate. Further faith-based funding is unfeasible, and status quo is likely distasteful to many. Another problem is that you're conflating the probability of the One School System becoming reality with the fairness and reasonableness of the proposal. The One School System seems very fair and reasonable to me in that not accommodating any religion (or whatever other discriminatory basis) is the most utilitarian solution with respect to a highly heterogeneous population. The current improbability of the One School System becoming reality has more to do with the lack of understanding or knowledge of such a proposal in the greater population. Your proposal for a funding system for a plurality of groups is unfeasible in terms of cost, unfair because the cost of such a system will detract from the education of all students, and unreasonable as many people have pointed out-- I will not elabourate on their arguments.

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  27. Yes, Gila, you did say 'have to'-"If One School System wants political support it will have to come up with an Alberta or Quebec style model where school choices are discouraged (by offering only partial funding) yet school choices are available."
    Supporting one school system with the elimination of special treatment for Catholic people DOES NOT mean that no alternative schools will ever receive any funding. The Green Party's OSS position included alt. schools, and religion in all schools, the Education Equity in Ontario position is agreeable to modest funding support for alt. schools, including religious schools. Some groups that support OSS object to any funding for any religion affiliated or other alt. schools, others accept it. One more time, the point is ending favourtism for the largest religious sector in the province and we don't have to take it any farther than that. If a political party wants to, fine, the Greens did and they received 3 times more votes than ever before. If the Conservatives had a position for one school system they would have won. Unfortunately they were led down the garden path by people like you saying the public will support funding faith based schools.
    I'm finished with this exchange now, no reason to keep running in circles.

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  28. “The problem is that you're conflating political will with the desires of the electorate.” Sometimes, if the electorate is loud enough to generate media attention, political will can be swayed.

    “status quo is likely distasteful to many” Definitely! And to lots of different interest groups. My suggestion is for these various groups to find a compromise which may not be 100% of our individual desires yet better than the status quo.

    “ Further faith-based funding is unfeasible” By “further” do you mean more faith groups, more students or more total dollars spent? I won’t touch the increased faith groups! What I will say is that a 10% reduction in Catholic funding covers funding all other faith groups at an equal 90% PLUS money left over! Quebec is saving huge piles of money by only funding all faith-based schools at 60% - this money can be poured into secular public education. Imagine if other school choices like arts and sports were only partially funded – even more savings! There seems to be a warped logic that faith-based students who are currently not funded would not cost the province if they were to be enrolled in public schools. There is no additional cost to even funding faith-based students at the full public rate, only a loss of the current savings!! These communities contribute to the education tax pot and should be at least partially funded for the general studies.

    “ The One School System seems very fair and reasonable to me in that not accommodating any religion (or whatever other discriminatory basis) is the most utilitarian solution with respect to a highly heterogeneous population.”

    Not accommodating any religion in education may indeed be “fair” in terms of equitability in funding. How, though, is it “fair” to deny families who pay education taxes even part of that amount to education? That is what the tax is for – education – and these kids are receiving an equal (and often better) quality of general studies education as seen by University success. (Almost all graduates of the Jewish high schools advance to University; the few who do not are furthering religious studies and/or doing volunteer work – no burden to society there!)

    Most of our tax dollars fund education and health. Our health care system currently accommodates various religions and cultures as evidenced by Catholic, Jewish, Seventh Day Adventist hospitals and with many differing programs/diets in all hospitals. Why would we not accommodate religions in education? In fact, there are many religious programs within our “secular” public schools with plans for many more. Your argument would have to be changed to supporting accommodation for religion WITHIN the public school system, not in separate religious systems.

    “heterogeneous population”?! Not sure what you are getting at. Are you suggesting that those who do long belong to the majority group do not get a say?! We all have to be round pegs fitting in round holes? No square pegs allowed in Canada?! What happened to the Canadian mosaic where we integrate not assimilate? Separation of Church and State and a Melting Pot are American, not Canadian, concepts.

    “funding system for a plurality of groups is unfeasible in terms of cost”

    It is up to One School System to look within and decide if its mandate is fairness, funding efficiency, or what is starting to look more and more like an anti-religion movement. Fairness and funding feasibility can be easily achieved by partially funding ALL faith-based schools at a rate low enough to generate a savings yet substantial enough to be fair to all families who contribute to the tax base.

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  29. Paula, contrary to what you may believe, supporters of faith-based schools never drafted the PC policy. Religious communities knew what they were up against and minorities are well aware that they do not have majority support (imagine a poll where Ontarians are asked if they support any more synagogues or mosques being built!)

    John Tory did not have to mention faith-based schools in his platform since this province already funds faith-based schools. He was ill-advised to think this would gain him votes. He also stood in the ring with McGuinty punching him with intolerant rhetoric and refused to punch back. Message to politicians: don't climb in the ring if you're not prepared to fight!

    The moment of truth was during the debate when McGuinty asked Tory if he was calling him a "liar" and Tory, ever the gentleman, refused to shout "YES, you are a LIAR for breaking your promises! You have betrayed the electorate's trust!". Instead he alluded to dictionaries!

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  30. By “further” do you mean more faith groups, more students or more total dollars spent? I won’t touch the increased faith groups! What I will say is that a 10% reduction in Catholic funding covers funding all other faith groups at an equal 90% PLUS money left over! Quebec is saving huge piles of money by only funding all faith-based schools at 60% - this money can be poured into secular public education. Imagine if other school choices like arts and sports were only partially funded – even more savings! There seems to be a warped logic that faith-based students who are currently not funded would not cost the province if they were to be enrolled in public schools. There is no additional cost to even funding faith-based students at the full public rate, only a loss of the current savings!! These communities contribute to the education tax pot and should be at least partially funded for the general studies.
    If I interpret your argument correctly, you suggest only partial funding of faith-based schools, presumably to cover the basics of education and not the religious/cultural aspects. This sounds stupid. School is for education, for acquiring skills, knowledge base, and wisdom for the future. Religion does not figure into that at all. It is extracurricular-- I would counter your proposal by having everyone educated in public school in subjects that count. If students wish, they can learn about their religion and culture outside of class, and outside of government influence. And I'm curious: if faith-based schools were to be only partially funded, where would they raise the rest of their funds? Charity? Tuition fees? That defeats the purpose of publicly funded education. Also, someone already noted the increased costs dealing with separate school systems-- there is every reason to expect this result with funding for every faith-based school.

    Not accommodating any religion in education may indeed be “fair” in terms of equitability in funding. How, though, is it “fair” to deny families who pay education taxes even part of that amount to education? That is what the tax is for – education – and these kids are receiving an equal (and often better) quality of general studies education as seen by University success. (Almost all graduates of the Jewish high schools advance to University; the few who do not are furthering religious studies and/or doing volunteer work – no burden to society there!)
    I cannot comment on the scholastic success of students educated in Jewish schools as I really don't know. I highly doubt that promiscuous funding of all faith-based schools will result in more students electing to go to university. Jewish schools, if the phenomenon exists, may just be an irrelevant exception. Also, as noted by someone previously, education isn't and shouldn't be democratically decided. Basic subjects in the curriculum like biology, chemistry, maths, English, history, anything you care to point at, are not administrated by the general public. I don't see the need to give any faith power to insert religion into that curriculum-- equal discrimination against all is fair.

    Most of our tax dollars fund education and health. Our health care system currently accommodates various religions and cultures as evidenced by Catholic, Jewish, Seventh Day Adventist hospitals and with many differing programs/diets in all hospitals. Why would we not accommodate religions in education? In fact, there are many religious programs within our “secular” public schools with plans for many more. Your argument would have to be changed to supporting accommodation for religion WITHIN the public school system, not in separate religious systems.
    I doubt students are learning about religion in public schools in a similar manner to what they would receive in church or something. If they were, that would be very disquieting. Furthermore, I don't see a reason for faith-based hospitals-- the medicine is the same. Faith-based hospitals aren't a good idea anyway: http://tinyurl.com/2k7h39. If PERSONAL needs like diet need to be met, then all due reasonable consideration should be given. Similarly, if students required prayer space, then all due reasonable consideration should be given. If students want to learn about their religion, they should go to the relevant extracurricular institutions.

    “heterogeneous population”?! Not sure what you are getting at. Are you suggesting that those who do long belong to the majority group do not get a say?! We all have to be round pegs fitting in round holes? No square pegs allowed in Canada?! What happened to the Canadian mosaic where we integrate not assimilate? Separation of Church and State and a Melting Pot are American, not Canadian, concepts.
    That is a strawman. I have not said anything about integration or assimilation. Education isn't a democratic result. There is no reason for Joe Six Pack to insert their inanity into what should be well-reasoned curricula. Basic curricula and accomodations for special learning needs does fit everyone, however. Again, if students want to learn more about their religion or culture, they can do it outside of school.

    It is up to One School System to look within and decide if its mandate is fairness, funding efficiency, or what is starting to look more and more like an anti-religion movement. Fairness and funding feasibility can be easily achieved by partially funding ALL faith-based schools at a rate low enough to generate a savings yet substantial enough to be fair to all families who contribute to the tax base.
    This sounds suspiciously like Ernie's proposal for a tax-break for parents who private-school their children. It's a poor proposal that undermines public education. Your conclusion that partial-funding of faith-based schools will result in more money for public schools is specious. For one, how do faith-based schools make up the shortfall? More likely, they'll require the same amount of money or more than public schools to teach the same subjects, onto which you have to add the additional costs of loss of economies of scale.

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  31. You continue your arguments with no regards to two important facts.

    What I DO expect you to think about is that faith-based education is a lawful choice in education that is respected across Canada. All provinces offer funding except the Maritimes and Nfld which don't fund much in the way of specialty schools either. I may not send my kids to French Immersion schools, yet I respect those who do and support their need and right
    to government funding from their contribution to education taxes!

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  32. Missing middle of previous blog for some reason...Anyhow, will try to respond:

    "School is for education, for acquiring skills, knowledge base, and wisdom for the future. Religion does not figure into that at all. It is extracurricular"
    Hello?!? What are sports-based and arts-based schools if not "extracurricular" and outside of basic education?!?

    They are SCHOOL CHOICE! A school with a specific focus of interest to particular students and their families. As I have said repeatedly in this blog and others: Either we fund School Choice or not. Ontario currently funds over 100 specialty schools. According to McGuinty and Wynne there are plans to double this number. Another arts-based high school in Etobicoke is presently accepting applications! Faith-based/cultural/Africentric schools are among many variations of school choice. Ontario is the ONLY Western democracy to fund one religion and no others. Ontario is the ONLY Province to promote school choice for arts, sports, Gay/Lesbians, 600,000 Catholic students, yet not offer choices to most other cultures/religions.

    Arts, sports and French can be learned after school hours. Yet it is accepted that it is preferential if the students attend a school that specializes in the specific focus. In the same manner, faith/culture/heritage can be studied after regular school hours. This does not provide the same degree of intensity and destroys any time for other extracurricular activities.

    As Paula says: We can talk in circles! Either we respect each others' interests and all reasonable school choices are accommodated or NO choices should be available.

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