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Principal hopes to see Christian education made affordable

Written on July 25th, 2007

With the Conservatives proposing a faith-based schools funding policy if elected, one principal is excited about the prospect of making Christian education affordable for those who want it.

George Petrusma of Knox Christian School in Bowmanville says families have inquired about the school, found everything to their liking but had to go elsewhere because they couldn’t afford the tuition.

“My hope would be that if that funding would come through that those people who are interested in choosing an education for their children that matches what is taught in home and in their church could actually be realized for that family,” says Petrusma.

He notes that the quality of instruction offered in the classroom at Knox probably would not be impacted by the potential government funding as the school already does it all it can to offer top-notch programs.

“(These programs) would just be offered at a lower cost.”

This week Progressive Conservative leader John Tory and Opposition Education Critic Frank Klees released faith-based schools funding details at a Queen’s Park press conference.

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. (See, “Conservatives give details on faith-based funding,” July 23, 2007).

Faith-based schools that choose the funding will have to comply with Ontario curriculum, participate in standardized testing and employ accredited teachers.

Petrusma says Knox school would have no problem meeting any of those criteria.

Andrew Straatsma, principal of Trinity Christian school in Burlington, is also excited about the prospect of funding for faith-based schools but adds there will need to be discussion around certain details.

“It’s a great step in the right direction and could be a huge blessing,” says Straatsma noting parents have made “huge” sacrifices over the years to keep faith-based schools going.

Lowering tuition, enhancing educational programs, and increasing enrollment could all be positive outcomes of government funding for faith-based schools, he says.

On the other hand, he would like to see certain non-negotiable elements ensured, such as allowing schools to hire Christian teachers and admit primarily Christian families.

“If they start opening the doors and saying you can’t discriminate against teachers, for instance, or students, then we will have to have a lot of discussion,” says Straatsma.

“Those are things that will have to be worked out.”