August 8, 2011 - The politics of public education
A great letter to the editor in response to this article from Paula Conning, Campaign Manager, Dufferin-Caledon Green Party of Ontario and Coordinator, Education Equality in Ontario, Orangeville and Area Chapter
In his “Trustee’s Notebook” Mr. Borden plays along with the charade that the Conservative, Liberal, and NDP parties hope we’ll accept- let’s pretend that the elephant in the school-yard that is the province-wide publicly funded catholic school system does not exist. No one wants this provincial election to be focused on that issue- our growing debt, large annual deficit, challenged manufacturing sector, overtaxed families, and urgent need to protect our farm land, water sources, and quality of life are serious issues that require the electorate to make informed choices. Unfortunately, after the 2007 election when voters made it clear that we reject faith- based school funding, all the parties retreated from the subject and the governing Liberal party neglected their obligation to address the central problem.
Ontario’s Catholic school system originated from a series of legislation starting in 1841, permitting public funding for catholic and public schools. In 2011, 170 years later, it’s long past time for the legislature of Ontario to update the system. Quebec and NFLD did this way back in the 1990s. Ten amendments have been made under the Constitution Act of 1982 -five of these related to provincial education rights. And Ontario has done NOTHING.
Merging the public and separate school systems will; promote human rights equality, promote effective utilization of public funds to enable all students to better achieve their highest learning potential, strengthen communities by welcoming all children into all public schools, and protect our environment by reducing transportation and closing redundant buildings.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB), like most Catholic boards, restricts enrolment in elementary schools and academic employment at all grade levels to people who have documentary proof of being catholic. This religious discrimination is legal and has been upheld consistently by the courts- which must rule according to legislation, and the legislature has neglected their responsibility to amend the outdated constitutional protections for Catholic education.
Mr. Borden asks us to consider, “What is the true purpose of public education?” I trust that few voters would answer, “To separate Catholics from others and to fund their religious practices and education.” Mr. Borden’s concluding paragraph reads like a warning to political parties to not change public policy and cause trustees to “shift away from” their responsibility to students. In promoting best outcomes for students an MPP’s responsibility is to look at the big picture- not just keep existing boards comfortable. Carefully planned transitions are required to best serve the needs of all our citizens.
My advocacy for merging the boards led me to the Green Party of Ontario, the only provincial party with a policy to do so. Merging the systems is fiscally responsible, socially progressive, and environmentally protective- of course the Greens support it.