One School System
I recently had a back-and-forth in the comments of this post regarding public funding for Catholic Schools here in Ontario. Larry Moran had a similar engagement with likely the same person ("anonymous", of course) on the same topic. This "anonymous" kept repeating the same question which was, paraphrased, if Catholics pay for their own system through their taxes, what's the problem?
I answered this question (several times) as did Larry, but here's a slightly more official answer from One School System itself:
Q1: Roman Catholics in Ontario pay for their own school system. Doesn't that make them entitled to it?Hope that clears that question up.
A1: It is not uncommon to run across Ontarians who believe this to be true. Let us shatter that myth right here and now: they do not pay for their own school system. It costs roughly $7700 per child per year to educate a child in the either the Ottawa public or separate board (2004-05 projections). The total amount contributed towards education by a typical family through provincial and municipal taxes comes nowhere close to covering the actual cost. People without children, people whose children have completed school, and businesses pay much of the cost of educating our children. Everyone benefits from an educated population and everyone pays according to their means.
The declaration of school support (public or separate) on property tax bills is nothing more than a bureaucratic sleight of hand. It still succeeds in leading some Ontarians to believe that Ontario Catholics actually pay for the additional publicly funded educational opportunities available to them alone. The fact is, Catholics and non-Catholics in Ontario carry exactly the same tax burden, but Catholics are guaranteed two educational choices for their money (public and/or separate school; many families use both) while non-Catholics, who make up two-thirds of Ontario's population, are guaranteed only one choice (public school). It wasn't any different when the school boards had direct taxation powers; the tax burden for supporters of either system was essentially the same, but the availability of choices and opportunities was not.
In Ottawa, the local separate school board has actually taken to placing advertisements in local newspapers urging Catholics to make sure they are identified as separate school supporters on local tax rolls. As all school funding is now distributed by the province on a per capita basis, such advertising can have no other purpose than the political purpose of maintaining the illusion that the Ontario Catholics actually pay for their special privileges. They made no attempt to conceal their intent:
"When you designate yourself as a separate school supporter, there is no longer a financial benefit to our Board. Rather, your designation guarantees a strong political voice through your elected representatives (Trustees) in ensuring your rights to a Catholic education for the young people in our province." - Advertisement in the Ottawa Citizen, June 2003
It is disconcerting to think that they probably used taxpayer money to pay for this advertisement; money that should have been spent in the classroom. Other separate school boards have mounted similar campaigns. Please send us the details of any such campaign you discover.
Some separate school boards have gone to even greater lengths than advertising in the effort to sign up supporters to maintain the appearance of strong support. In a 1994 complaint brought before the Information and Privacy Commissioner for Ontario, it was revealed that an unnamed separate board was scanning local tax rolls in an effort to find Catholic ratepayers who supported the public board. According to the separate board in question, they were not soliciting support "per se", but were only seeking to "inform Catholic ratepayers of their rights". How helpful of them. The complaint was brought by a Catholic woman supporting the public board. In its report on Investigation I94-040M, the Commissioner decided that the separate board was acting within its rights in its use of the personal information on municipal tax rolls. It would be interesting to know the extent to which separate school boards are still redirecting educational dollars toward such self-preservation activities. Please let us know of any such activities you become aware of.