Ontario Opposition Leader John Tory brought the issue of faith-based school funding to light June 8 at the Conservative policy convention in Toronto. Tory announced his party’s commitment to make a change in the funding of 53,000 students in Ontario who attend faith-based independent schools. He suggests giving them the same funding Roman Catholic students receive.
“I think what we want to do is try and replicate the successful experience of the Catholic schools, which are funded today, and do it in a way that expands the sphere of public education to accommodate the diversity that is Ontario today,” said Tory.
Tory said if the Conservatives win the Oct. 10 provincial election, the party will add $800 million to public education spending.
Though there are few details regarding the implementation and allocation of the funds, Tory made it clear there will be rules to assure it is faith-based schools and not all private educators who will benefit.
In order to receive the funds, there will be protocols in place including the incorporation of Ontario curriculum and standardized testing, similar to the Catholic system.
The announcement is included in the 52-page election platform booklet.
For the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS), the announcement echoes their 55 years of advocacy work.
“We are very pleased that Mr. Tory is continuing to uphold the promise that he made a year and a half ago at a policy convention when he said that he was going to deal with this particular issue,” says John Vanasselt, director of communications at the OACS.
As part of their advocacy for school choice, the OACS has authored a policy statement regarding education in the public interest.
The statement points out that Ontario is unique from other provinces in the country (such as Alberta and British Columbia) where private school sector funding models are in place without consequence to the public school system.
In 1999, a United Nations committee concluded Ontario government to be discriminating faith-based schools as a human rights violation.
The OACS makes the point that an independent school sector “is a demonstrable public good in a liberal democratic society.”
They outline the parametres that could be associated with a fair-funding policy in order to ensure accountability.
“What we are looking for is the appropriate balance between public accountability and maintaining the integrity of the school,” says Vanasselt.
“We’ll await further details on this (announcement) and we look forward to working with them and developing these details.”