It’s time for one school sys­tem

Ni­a­gara school clo­sures show the need to elim­i­nate Catholic schools across On­tario

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - TOM RODEN

There is a dis­turb­ing sit­u­a­tion in Ni­a­gara West. Grimsby, Beamsville and Smithville. Each has a pub­lic high school. The school board has voted to close the three schools, be­cause of de­clin­ing en­rol­ment, and build a “su­per school” in a ru­ral area be­tween Grimsby and Beamsville, such that all stu­dents must be bused in from the three towns.

There is a Catholic school in Grimsby that draws from all three towns. There are enough sec­ondary stu­dents in each town to have a vi­able sec­ondary school in each town if there were no sep­a­rate school sys­tem or if the sep­a­rate sys­tem were will­ing to share fa­cil­i­ties.

It has been sug­gested that town coun­cil, DSBN and our MPP very force­fully demand that the Gov­ern­ment of On­tario either force the sep­a­rate board to share fa­cil­i­ties in each of the three towns or elim­i­nate sep­a­rate school fund­ing en­tirely. It ap­pears that no one has the courage to ad­dress the fact that sep­a­rate school fund­ing is an anachro­nis­tic, un­demo­cratic, di­vi­sive, exclusive and ex­tremely ex­pen­sive priv­i­lege that has no place in 2017 On­tario.

This sit­u­a­tion is not exclusive to Ni­a­gara West. The prob­lem ex­ists in many towns and ru­ral ar­eas.

Pub­lic fund­ing of Ro­man Catholic sep­a­rate schools is wrong for many rea­sons:

1. Stu­dents should not be seg­re­gated by re­li­gion,

2. It is con­trary to the ed­u­ca­tion act prin­ci­ples of in­clu­siv­ity and eq­uity,

3. It is dis­crim­i­na­tory to­ward stu­dents, favour­ing one re­li­gion, making it un­demo­cratic,

4. It al­lows for dis­crim­i­na­tion in em­ploy­ment on the ba­sis of re­li­gion,

5. The ex­is­tence of pub­lic and sep­a­rate schools in small communities di­vides the com­mu­nity on the ba­sis of re­li­gion,

6. The ex­tra cost of op­er­at­ing four sys­tems of ed­u­ca­tion varies from one bil­lion to three bil­lion dol­lars per year.

7. Pub­lic fund­ing of Ro­man Catholic sep­a­rate schools is not guar­an­teed in the con­sti­tu­tion.

1. On­tario is now a mul­ti­cul­tural, mul­ti­eth­nic, het­ero­ge­neous prov­ince with many re­li­gions rep­re­sented. Se­gre­ga­tion by re­li­gion leads to mistrust, mis­un­der­stand­ing and dis­crim­i­na­tion.

2. The sep­a­rate school sys­tem is exclusive to Ro­man Catholics. Al­though sec­tion 42(13) pro­vides any sep­a­rate school stu­dent with the op­por­tu­nity to opt out of the re­li­gious in­doc­tri­na­tion, ex­emp­tions are rarely, if ever, granted.

3. The United Na­tions has twice con­demned (1999, 2005) the prac­tice of pub­licly fund­ing Ro­man Catholic sep­a­rate schools, while deny­ing fund­ing to other faiths, as a vi­o­la­tion of the prov­ince’s and Canada’s in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights obli­ga­tions. No group should have a priv­i­leged po­si­tion.

Man­i­toba (1890), Que­bec (1997) and New­found­land and Labrador (1998) abol­ished their faith based sys­tems of ed­u­ca­tion.

4. De­spite the laws gov­ern­ing em­ploy­ment that pro­hibit dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of race, re­li­gion, gen­der, etc., the sep­a­rate school boards hire only Catholics. One’s re­li­gion has no bear­ing on his/her abil­ity to teach.

5. The com­mu­nity di­vide is demon­strated in Ni­a­gara West (See Para­graph 1). There will be a loss to the lo­cal economies of the three towns as well as a loss of com­mu­nity spirit. If there were one sys­tem of ed­u­ca­tion, there are suf­fi­cient stu­dents of all re­li­gions to have a vi­able sec­ondary school in each com­mu­nity — Beamsville, Grimsby and Smithville.

The sep­a­rate sec­ondary school in Grimsby is not a com­mu­nity school.

Par­tic­u­larly in smaller towns, the one school sys­tem al­lows stu­dents to at­tend school in their own communities.

6. Re­gard­ing the ex­tra cost of op­er­at­ing four sys­tems of ed­u­ca­tion, the em­pha­sis is on “ex­tra”. The more ob­vi­ous ex­tra costs are:

a. Op­er­at­ing two, three or four board of­fices in each ju­ris­dic­tion. Each board of­fice has a Di­rec­tor of Ed­u­ca­tion, a group of su­per­in­ten­dents, sup­port and cler­i­cal staff,

b. Buses pick­ing up stu­dents near the pub­lic school to de­liver them to the near­est sep­a­rate school and other buses do­ing the re­verse

Im­ple­men­ta­tion of one ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem will re­duce ex­penses for the fol­low­ing rea­sons:

a. Amal­ga­ma­tion of nearby un­der ca­pac­ity schools,

b. Re­duc­tion in ad­ver­tis­ing ex­penses for com­pet­ing school boards,

c. Econ­omy of scale re­gard­ing pur­chas­ing, d. Bet­ter use of sup­port per­son­nel, e. Bet­ter pro­gram selec­tion and ex­tracur­ric­u­lar op­por­tu­ni­ties in small town schools.

The most com­mon es­ti­mates re­gard­ing the ex­tra cost of op­er­at­ing four sys­tems as op­posed to op­er­at­ing one sec­u­lar pub­licly funded ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem are in the range of $1.5 bil­lion to $2 bil­lion an­nu­ally.

In stud­ies done us­ing Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion fig­ures from 2006 to 2011, it was found that the sep­a­rate school sys­tem re­ceived more money per stu­dent ev­ery year — rang­ing from $700 per stu­dent per year to $2,900 per stu­dent per year.

7. Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian Supreme Court the prov­inces have the ab­so­lute power to gov­ern ed­u­ca­tion, sub­ject to con­di­tions in Sec­tion 93, sub­sec­tions (1) to (4). Es­sen­tially, the prov­ince has the right to fund sep­a­rate schools if it so chooses. It also has the right elim­i­nate that fund­ing if it chooses to fol­low the cor­rect pro­ce­dures.

Tom Roden lives in Grimsby.

ALEXAN­DRA HECK, METROLAND

South Lin­coln high school stu­dents hold hands while lis­ten­ing to the mo­tion be­ing read by DSBN staff to close high schools in Grimsby, Beamsville and Smithville in order to build one cen­tral­ized fa­cil­ity. The vote passed unan­i­mously.

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