The Charter for Public Education Network urges public dialogue and consultation on increasing public funding for independent schools.
Vancouver, BC December 15, 2005: The Charter for Public Education Network (CPEN) advocates for free, universal, accessible, quality public education. While recognizing the right and responsibility of parents to ensure the best possible education for their children, CPEN expects government to be responsible for fully funding all aspects of a quality public education. We also expect that the public education system will provide all students with an education which is second to none.In British Columbia there has been a recent and dramatic increase in the provision of public funds to support private, independent schools, leading to increasing enrollments in those schools while public school enrollments are in decline. According to Ministry of Education Budget Information, Schedule A of the 2005/06 Estimates, public school operating grants will increase by only 4.8% between 2004-5 and 2007-8 while independent school grants will increase by more than 18.9% over the same period. Between 2002-03 and 2007-08 government documents show 34% more has been budgeted for independent school funding but only 5.8% more for public school funding. These figures are based on a 4% annual growth rate in independent school enrolments. Last year public school enrolments dropped in 54 out of 60 school districts. In the current year, more than 17% of school age children in Vancouver (School District #39) were enrolled in independent schools.
On September 18th, shortly after the budget estimates were announced, the government also announced new full funding for special needs students in independent schools, providing an additional $8.3 million to independent schools.
The combination of government funding to independent schools, publication of provincial assessments, the ranking of schools and the persistent under funding of public education is leading to a subtle but ongoing weakening of the public education system. By providing public funding to private schools, the government is subsidizing parents who already have the means to provide socio-economic support to their children and to give them an advantage in society. At the same time, the drift away from the public schools of children who enjoy these social advantages leads to an imbalance in social and economic demographics for neighborhood public schools and a potential downward spiral in assessment results for public schools. Funding of independent schools does not lead to “choice” for all. It is, however, consistent with the provision of a “two tiered” social system which is not supported by the majority of Canadians or British Columbians. CPEN encourages public dialogue on this and other issues consistent with the principles outlined in The Charter for Public Education.