Not Driving Ontario Families Out Of Public Education

A strong Public Education system is vital for a functional democracy. So many important parts of our society are supported by an educated electorate that learns perspective in an environment that reflects the society they want to change.
Equity within public education is vital, but it must be done right.

An uncompromising push for equity is going to push out families that have time, money and influence. Their absence will disrupt the diversity needed for the magic of public education to work.  

Removal of student fees, attacks to meritocracy and destreaming are blunt remedies to address equity issues in Ontario public schools. They will throw the baby out with the bath water if not done in a thoughtful, non punitive manner.   

Making student fees optional - will not raise enough funds.  Covering students who can’t afford to pay is not good enough. Many will not participate rather than suffer the embarrassment of coming forward and announcing their families' poverty.  Optional fundraising will have to be done to cover the loss of revenue from school fees. 

Fundraising should be conducted by teams of schools, rather than individuals to minimize inequity.  Rich and poor schools should team up - like sister cities for school activities of cultural exchange and fundraising.  All the fundraising will most likely not raise enough to cover the loss of fees. Schools will have to scale back on some aspects of extra curricular and get smarter on how to stretch finite dollars. Less games and travel for sports. More school board based activities that benefit from economies of scale. Schools have to stop doing things all on their own and work collaboratively with other schools in joint efforts to reduce cost. Sharing facilities and busiing where applicable will need to take place if not being done so already, 

Destreaming makes sense for grade 9, but choice of level should be given to parents in subsequent grades.  Greater emphasis on classroom management techniques will have to become a greater part of professional development than what is currently in vogue among provincial education mandarins. 

The attack on meritocracy must end.  Killing celebrations of achievement because of financial constraints is one thing, removing them as a matter of political philosophy is another.  Equality of outcome as the remedy to the failings of equality of opportunity is a lazy, defeatist attitude. We should celebrate the human spirit of individuals who excel in an environment of equity we foster within our schools.

The drive for equity in schools is a noble, warranted pursuit, however, it must be done thoughtfully or will drive out a very important constituency that makes public education work. 

By Gregory Cawsey 

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