There can be no question that independent schools have really contributed to Ontario society in a lot of ways: Kamphuis
The existence of independent schools in Ontario help public schools perform more effectively says Tony Kamphuis.
Kamphuis is the Niagara Association for Christian Education executive director. He says studies have shown the benefit to society that independent schools provide.
“As long as there is a legitimate option for parents, then they don’t have to just accept whatever is available at their local school,” he says.
“There are excellent public schools and there are excellent Catholic schools, and there are some that are less than ideal. But there is no incentive for them to make the student experience as excellent as they can, unless their families could go somewhere else.”
He cites a study by Claudia Hepburn of the Fraser Institute, which looks at Sweden’s model of government funding for private schools.
In 1991, Sweden began funding independent schools. Students at independent schools in the country now receive approximately the same funding as those who attend public schools.
In Hepburn’s 2006 study, titled School Choice in Sweden: Lessons for Canada, evidence shows students with lower abilities most benefit from private schools.
The Swedish study also cites that public schools respond positively to the private school competition.
These results are similar to those of Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby, who studied private schools in the Unites States. Her paper, How School Choice Affects the Achievement of Public School Students, argues public schools respond to private school competition by increasing their potential.
In Ontario, families pay tuition and receive no government support to attend a private or independent school. This is different from provinces like Alberta and British Columbia, where funding models are in place.
“Unfortunately, what we have is a situation where wealthier families will always have choice because they can afford it, but if middle class and families with lower incomes would like to try to do something different for education for their kids, that is just not available to them,” explains Kamphuis.
The estimated cost per student in the public system is $9,200 per year. Many independent schools offer tuition prices that are competitive and cost less than the public system per pupil.
Kamphuis says that if independent school students received a subsidy of $5,000 each this would be over $4,000 less than the public system.
“Certainly, if they did partial funding for every student that came to an independent school, (it would) actually save the government money.”
He says it is frustrating that independent schools receive no funding and still pay taxes towards public education.
In the Ontario Legislative Assembly a private member’s resolution stating the province’s commitment to public education system and opposition “to take public money and hand it over to private schools” was defeated April 26.
Kamphuis was among the independent school supporters sitting in the member’s gallery. He says the wording of this resolution was misleading.
“Closer to the truth, resources are taken from our community and supporters of independent schools and given to the public schools, with nothing given in return, no services accessed,” he says.
“If you see our graduation rate and the awesome things the graduates of any independent school have done in Ontario society, there can be no question that independent schools have really contributed to Ontario society in a lot of ways.”