Funding independent schools benefits not only the independent school communities, but society at large, according to several spokespeople from British Columbia.
Independent schools have been funded for the last 30 years in B.C.
Fred Herfst, executive director of the Federation of Independent School Associations (FISA), says that funding independent schools is a recognition of the right of parents to choose the kind of education that should be given to their children.
“This is in accord with the best international law and international covenant,” he says.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26) cosigned by Canada, states: “Parents have the prior right to choose the kinds of education that shall be given to their children.”
Supporting independent schools also offers the recognition that diversity of opinion can coexist and coexist well, according to Herfst.
“It provides healthy dialogue in society,” he says.
“It also provides recognition of religious freedom,” he says. Eighty per cent of the B.C. independent schools have a strong religious affiliation.
“Again, it’s a good way of providing that delicate balance between the interests of the state and the interests that individuals have in educating their children in their particular religious values,” he says.
Supporting choice in education raises the quality of education for all participants, Herfst adds.
“When people have choice it sharpens everybody, because the people who are delivering the service know the clientele can go somewhere else.”
Henry Contant, executive director of the Society of Christian Schools in British Columbia, points out that independent schools save the provincial taxpayers “hundreds of millions of dollars each year.”
“We have worked hard to get that message out and I believe the majority of our politicians for a number of years have understood the fact that there’s a significant saving that independent school present to taxpayers.,” he says.
“We’re not taking money away from the public schools, we are actually saving the taxpayer a lot of money.”
Conservative estimates show that the government would need to spend well over $1 billion in capital infrastructure if it had to provide school facilities for all the students currently educated in independent schools in B.C.
Contant also points out that government funding has allowed independent schools to put more money and resources into programs and school facilities which has been a “real blessing to our schools here.”
Thirty years ago, there was one Christian high school in within the Society of Christian Schools in B.C. Now there are twenty schools that operate from K-12.
B.C. independent schools are not funded for land or building but with a lower tuition amount it’s easier for school communities to dedicate funds for land, buildings and programs, says Contant.
“I think you do see that generally most Christian schools obviously by and large are very well resourced, which I think helps their public image as well.”