Not all governing bodies of faith-based schools are excited about the Progressive Conservatives’ proposed funding policy for faith-based schools.
The Board of Directors of Brantford Christian School is prepared to refuse government funding depending on the criteria the school must meet in order to receive the funding, according to Principal Walter Hartholt.
Hartholt says his board has discussed the prospect of government funding for the school several times over the past two years.
“We’ve decided that if there were strings attached to the funding we would reject the funding outright,” says Hartholt, adding the board in existence at the time the new policy comes into play, if it does, will have to decide how much it is willing to compromise.
From the current board’s standpoint, however, he says, if the criteria included hiring only teachers who are members of the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT), following the “letter” of the Ontario curriculum, and completing the Grades 3 and 6 standardized tests, it would probably refuse the funding.
The Progressive Conservatives are proposing to add $800 million to public education and give faith-based schools the same funding as Catholic schools if elected on October 10 (See, “Conservatives give details on faith-based funding,” July 23, 2007).
Each school that chooses to receive funding under the Conservative plan would comply with Ontario curriculum, participate in standardized testing, and employ accredited teachers.
All of Brantford school’s teachers are accredited but not necessarily with the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). Some have their Christian School Teachers Certificates.
Hartholt says the board wants to ensure it can still hire whom it wants to hire.
“I think that’s primary to the continuation of Christian education.”
While the school follows the Ontario Ministry of Education guidelines in terms of curriculum, it integrates the Christian worldview as well and the board doesn’t want that compromised in any way, says Hartholt.
The Brantford board has also seen enough flaws in the Grades 3 and 6 standardized testing model to not want any part in it.
Hartholt says the danger isn’t in that the government funds faith-based schools at all, but how much and what exactly it funds.
“I think that those who want to send their kids to a Christian school or faith-based school, whether Christian or Muslim or Jewish, should have the opportunity to do that and finances shouldn’t be a burden to them,” he says.
However, there are other components such as transportation, educational assistants, and capital costs, which could be government-funded and which wouldn’t affect the schools’ governance, he says.
Hartholt points to Manitoba where independent schools receive capital funds but are required to raise their own operating costs.
He says he prefers this model because it allows the schools their autonomy.
“At Brantford Christian School we believe the primary responsibility of educating the child is the parent’s, not the government’s,” he says.
The school’s current model allows for parental involvement through a school society, which elects a board to represent it and oversee the running of the school.
It remains to be seen how a government-funded faith-based school would operate.
“Funding in theory is a nice concept but once it impacts the running of the school as in the government determining how the school runs as opposed to the parents then I think it’s an issue,” says Hartholt.
“We will not accept funding if it’s going to impact our school path and direction.”