Former premier Bill Davis to chair commission
Faith-based schools funding details were released this morning during a Queen’s Park press conference from Progressive Conservative leader John Tory and Opposition Education Critic Frank Klees.
Tory announced that if elected, former premier Bill Davis would lead a commission to research and provide recommendations for the inclusion of faith-based schools in Ontario’s public school system, according to a press release.
The announcement includes terms of reference for the Public Education Fairness Implementation Commission. The commission is to examine faith-based school funding and identify best practices in other provinces.
Other steps include monitoring and assessing a pilot program by integrating selected faith-based schools in 2008 to 2009 before full expansion into the public system.
The faith-based funding policy, subject to legislative approval, should be fully implemented in the fall of 2010, said Tory at the press conference.
Davis was Ontario’s Minister of Education from 1962 to 1971 and in 1984 as premier announced full funding for Catholic schools. Catholic schools fall under the public system whereas other faith-based schools – including Christian, Jewish and Muslim – parents pay tuition and receive no government support.
The Conservatives plan to add $800 million to public education and give faith-based schools the same funding as Catholic schools if elected on Oct. 10. The $800-million increase for the 2007 to 2008 school year is to grow to $2.4 billion in five years.
Tory said their policy is based on the objectives to strengthen the public education system, to bring all Ontario students closer together and to address the issue of fairness.
“We have a Catholic System that is succeeding and thriving within our public system right now – and that is a great model for how the principles of faith-based learning and public system standards can successfully coincide,” said Tory.
There are currently 53,000 students attending religious independent schools in the province. Each school that chooses to receive funding under the Conservative plan would comply with Ontario curriculum, participate in standardized testing and employ accredited teachers.
“Ontario’s public school system is one of the best in the world,” said Klees in a press release. “We have an opportunity to strengthen and expand upon that success responsibly in order to provide more Ontarians with the same opportunity our Catholic school system provides.”
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