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Friday, 12 September 2014

Financing Schools: Cut Private School Grants More

 Like the song says, "The rich get rich and the poor get children."

Le Devoir has a story this morning about how the current austerity wave is requiring that Quebec school boards cut even more from their budgets this academic year.  The Commission scolaire de Montréal, the province's largest school board, has been asked to cut another $9.1 million even though the school year has already started. Previously school commissions had to cut their budgets by 10 per cent.


The new cuts can't be made without seriously affecting the quality of education, says the commission's president, Catherine Harel-Bourdon.  The only places to trim, since contracts have already been signed with personnel, is in services like homework aid and health.  This will  have terrible effects on the most most vulnerable schools and students.  So the commission just won't make them.

In contrast, Quebec has not made the same kind of cuts in the funds it allocates to private schools.  In June finance minister Carlos Leitão took $14.1 million from the $480 million it gives to support approved private schools.  That's 3 per cent of their budgets, not 10 per cent.

The association of private schools protested, of course, claiming that they actually save the province money: public schools receive an average of about $11,000 in public funds, while private schools in 2011-2012 received $4,320, according to figures the assciation bandied about last spring.  What is not mentioned is that private schools can and do refuse any kid with problems.  The public system, in contrast, must provide special support for thousands which means considerably more expense.

A study released at the beginning of the summer (and which flew below the radar of many including myself) estimated that the province could save between $65 million and $186 million by reducing support to private schools.  Public schools spend 21.5 percent more on teaching per student than do private schools ($7,157 compared to  $5,888 ) and 147 per cent less than private schools for administrative services ($515  compared to $1,273.)

Partisans of private school always argue that each child that switches from their system to the public one will cost the public more money.  True, but I expect that if more of the childen of the chattering classes and the society's decideurs  went to public schools, we'd see a whole lot more pressure to increase, not cut, the resources of public schools.  And investment in a system that educates all children well is money very well spent. 


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