Q & A ON CATHOLIC SCHOOL FUNDING
Q. Why should a secular government fund religious schools?
A. In Canadian political history, secular hasn't meant "religiously neutral."
“Religion is a fact of life in modern pluralistic democracies. Religious education, rooted in the moral traditions of the world's great religions provides an ethical framework for citizenship and situates education within a global context that expands, not narrows, the horizons of young people... While Church and State maintain a realistic distinction, secularity in Canada does not imply the religious neutrality of the body politic or civil society. However, the secularity of the state is often misinterpreted to mean that religion is a strictly private affair, even an irrational or outdated orientation that should not influence what happens in the public sphere.
In reality, religion is a social and public phenomenon. People of faith have not only a right to their private opinions, but the freedom to publicly participate in religion as a visible and real community within the larger pluralistic community of Canada.”1)
Q. Why should we fund schools that divide people from other groups? They create silos where people focus on their differences.
A. Since 1984, non-Catholics have constituted between 10% and 50% of all students within individual Catholic schools.2)
Q. Why should we fund a system that instills intolerance? I don’t want my tax dollars to fund a system that teaches that same-sex marriage is wrong.
A. Catholics have views on some moral issues which oppose those of a large percentage of the population. But they have a right to teach, hold and express those opinions. Differences of opinion are a fact of life. It is important that citizens learn to express their differences respectfully.
Catholic schools teach the importance of dialogue, discussion and respect for others. They teach respect for the other world religions in their religion classes and a special reverence for the Jewish culture which it views as its spiritual predecessor. The Catholic faith teaches that human beings are one family, and that all people have equal dignity.
Q. Are my property taxes the source of funding for the system I designate on my tax form?
A. Property taxes account for about a third of the province’s education budget and the rest comes from general revenue streams. The collected money is disbursed in a per-pupil amount set according to a complex funding formula which is different per board.
According to Ministry of Education spokesperson Gary Wheeler, "the percentage of school boards' budgets covered by property taxes differs depending on their religious and language affiliation...
With English public boards, property taxes account for 35.7 per cent of funding, in English Catholic boards, 26.6 per cent, French public boards 13.2 per cent and French Catholic boards 14.2 per cent.3)
The Per Pupil amount for an English Catholic student is $11,089 whereas the English Public Per Pupil Amount is $10,880. The difference is due to a higher salary amount for secondary school teachers and a higher proportion of students enrolled in Catholic secondary schools."4)
Q. Why is Ontario funding Catholic schools if the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee ruled that Ontario’s exclusive funding for Catholic schools discriminates unfairly against non-Catholics?5)
A. Both the Canadian and Ontario governments responded to the opinion, strongly defending the existing system. Notably, the matter has not been pursued by the U.N. or any member government.6)
1) Richard Shields, “In defence of faith-based schools,” The Hamilton Spectator, Dec 13, 2013.
2) Brendan Steven, “Right Minded: Why Ontario benefits from publicly funded Catholic schools,” February 12, 2013. (http://nationalcitizens.ca/index.php/ncc-initiatives/freedomwatch/8-articles/67-right-minded-why-ontario-benefits-from-publicly-funded-catholic-schools)
3) Heidi Ulrichsen, “Property taxes fund less than half of Ontario's education budget,” Sudbury Northern Life, Jan 22, 2014.
4) Figures obtained from Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association in an email of February 22, 2013.