Ontario would move toward provincial funding for Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu schools if the Progressive Conservatives are elected in October, provincial party leader John Tory said yesterday.
Mr. Tory said he would name former premier Bill Davis to lead a panel into extending funding to faith-based schools.
Mr. Davis, who was also an education minister, led the move to full provincial funding for the province’s Roman Catholic schools in the 1980s.
A statement from Mr. Tory said that with public funding would come requirements to teach the Ontario curriculum, standardized testing and teacher credentials.
“Ontario has funded faith-based education to varying degrees since Confederation,” Mr. Tory said.
“This inclusive approach has proven to be successful in managing and respecting religious diversity within public education,” he added.
“It has taught children of different ethnicities and faiths to value our respective religious and cultural heritages, while also being unified by common standards and equivalent experiences.”
The cost of bringing all of Ontario’s religiously based schools and their 53,000 students under the province’s educational umbrella would be about $400-million, Mr. Tory said.
He added the Public Education Fairness Implementation Commission to be led by Mr. Davis would undertake wide public consultation with an eye to having pilot programs running in September, 2008.
Mr. Tory’s position was quickly welcomed by several Christian and Jewish groups.
“Very few people in Ontario represent the devotion to public education demonstrated by Mr. Davis. It’s a commitment that we share,” said UJA Federation vice-chairman David Koschitzky, who heads a Jewish community steering committee on inclusive public education (moderator’s note: the “J” in “UJA” stands for “Jewish” – read more about UJA from their website here)
“Former premier Bill Davis is particularly well-suited to this task,” said Igor Ellyn, Ontario region education chairman of the Canadian Jewish Congress (check out their website here).
“His record on public education instills us with the confidence that the process of integrating faith-based schools that meet provincial standards into the public system will proceed fairly for the benefit of public schools and all Ontario residents.”
Mr. Koschitzky stressed that both Jewish groups urge political candidates from all parties to endorse a policy of inclusive public education, which will, he said “strengthen the public system by enhancing its diversity and encouraging greater interaction among children of all faiths.”
The Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (here) also welcomed Mr. Tory’s announcement.
In a statement, alliance executive director Dr. Adrian Guldemond said he is confident a balance can be struck between the need for public accountability and safeguards for the unique features of the faithbased schools.
Dr. Guldemond said OACS schools have been developing parameters for public accountability, focussing on teacher certification, curriculum and student achievement.
He stressed that not all of Ontario’s 400 faith-based schools would be eligible for funding on these conditions, although they could upgrade to these standards.
…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a July 24, 2007 article by Pat McGrath in The National Post