The Communist Party of Canada (Ontario) is calling on the Ontario government to take immediate steps to develop a single, universal and secular, public education system in the province. The CPC (O) urges all progressives in Ontario to raise this demand, along with the introduction of a needs-based funding formula, as the most effective means for saving and improving public schools and delivering universal, quality public education.

Specifically, the Ontario government must end the public funding of the provincial Catholic school system. Governments have tried to justify this through references to constitutional education rights for Catholics. In reality, however, this is an outdated, regressive and discriminatory practice that the public cannot afford, from either a financial or a democratic viewpoint. Ontario is now the only province in Canada to publicly fund a parallel system of religious education.

“The practice of publicly funding the Catholic school system has twice been condemned by the United Nations, in 1999 and again in 2005,” stated Elizabeth Rowley, CPC (O) leader and a former public school trustee. “The UN stated very clearly that Ontario needs to eliminate discrimination, on the basis of religion, for public funding for education. This means that either all religious groups are funded, or none are. For decades, the Communist Party has continued to propose that the best way to provide quality, and equality, is through a single, secular public school system, with English and French boards, and no funding for any religious education.”

The CPC (O) welcomes the recent statement from the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario (ETFO), calling for an end to public funding for Catholic schools. This demand, which has also been made by the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation (OSSTF), should be echoed in all areas of the province, until the government can no longer ignore the issue. Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Ontarians also want a single, secular and quality system of public education.

Religious education is the responsibility of particular religious communities, not public institutions. The Communist Party’s call for one, secular system does not include the idea of a blended or combined system, in which religious – specifically Catholic – education would be an optional stream.

In addition to de-funding religious education, the Ontario government must act now to introduce a needs-based funding formula, that will guarantee sufficient education resources for schools, students and communities. The double-prong approach of underfunding and balanced budget legislation has created and deepened the crisis in public education across the province, with the inevitable result that public confidence in the system is being eroded. The stage is being set for increased privatization of education.

“Education is a right, pure and simple,” said Rowley, “but making money off people’s needs is not. As Ontarians prepare for provincial and municipal elections this year, we need to see a strong campaign that will reverse the trend toward deep program and staff cuts, increased fees, privatization and inequity. We need to demand that the province adequately fund public education, from cradle to grave. And we need local public school boards and trustees who are prepared to fight for this demand and, if necessary, defy the government’s balanced budget legislation.”

For more information on the Communist Party of Canada (Ontario):

Elizabeth Rowley, leader
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