In response to the growing public pressure to examine the real cost & benefit of the duplicate Separate Catholic school system in Alberta, the President of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association recently wrote & widely distributed an opinion piece entitled “Catholic Education: Confronting Fiction with Facts.” – a delicious title given the subject matter at hand.
It transpires, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the “Fact versus Fiction” format wasn’t ACSTA’s core competency and ultimately the Coles Notes / tl;dr version is that what ACSTA is actually separate from is “reality”, and what they *should* be separate from is the millions and millions of public dollars that they take.
ACSTA – “Fiction: It has been suggested that eliminating Catholic Education in Alberta would be easy.”
If your strongest opening argument for something is, “It may or may not be wrong, but it’s going to be difficult to change” then I don’t think you have much of an argument for something. It’s up there with “but that’s how we’ve always done it…” as the worst reason for doing anything. Ever.
“It’s constitutionally protected” is a smokescreen, a strawman intentionally intended to misdirect you from the fact that we DO have a choice, and that we can disestablish Separate Catholic education in Alberta with a simple majority vote in the Legislature & a federal rubber stamp. Or a quick & painless invocation of the “notwithstanding clause” – like all the other provinces that have already done away with their expensive & inappropriate Separate school systems.
ACSTA – “Fiction: Amalgamating Catholic and Public Schools would lead to substantial savings of taxpayer money.”
Quarter of a billion dollars every year in savings from inefficiencies is a reasonable figure for reinvestment in Education & is easily realised through the closure of only 10 (out of 60) of the duplicate district offices, senior execs, 10% of admin staff, 20% of busing & the cost of running, maintaining, repairing & the energy costs required in the half empty & older schools out of the almost 2,000 that we operate.
We could instead have an extra couple of thousand teachers, perhaps a dozen extra brand new schools every year or perhaps the very best in scientific or engineering labs. Instead of arguing about the number, let’s agree that the government commission an independent 3rd party audit into potential cost savings for the taxpayer.
As to the ACSTA President’s statement, “The only way to save taxpayer money would be if all 175,000 students simply stop having access to education altogether.” – this another clearly untrue smokescreen – logically flawed to even the most junior of business students.
Best Buy closed 33% of Future Shops & switched the other 67% to the Best Buy Brand. In doing so they maintained community coverage & product choice, yet dramatically cut overhead. Operating two duplicate non-cooperative school systems is not only unfair and outdated, but irresponsibly inefficient & expensive for the taxpayer.
ACSTA – “Fiction: Catholic School Boards never work together with Public School Boards.”
Another dishonest reframing with the use of “never”. But to be fair, let’s look at ACSTA’s own policies; “The ACSTA and its member boards oppose the joint use of school buildings with public school boards in any manner…” – Well that’s awkward.
There are many, many examples of ridiculous circumstance & cost (born by the taxpayer) for the privilege & arrogance of ACSTA & its member Catholic boards. Legal is but one example. Population is 1350. Yet we have three separate schools in three separate locations with three separate school districts & administration.. Public & Francophone kids in undesirable environments with substandard facilities. The half-empty Catholic school could house them all efficiently & effectively. But they won’t.
The arrogance & entitlement of Catholic districts in thinking they can take the public’s money, but ignore the most common sense & reasonable acts of financial propriety is almost beyond belief.
ACSTA – “Fiction: Catholic Education is overly influenced by the church.”
Remember that time a Bishop thought a vaccine would make school girls more promiscuous and tried to prevent government run, fully publicly funded schools from offering life saving, cancer preventing medicine? Or that time a Catholic school trustees said being gay & trans was a choice. That trans girls were boys. Or immoral & broken. Or that the Catholic school church representative asked the parent of the trans child what “corrective measures” had been taken?
Again, in ACSTA’s own words. “A Catholic school…is an instrument of the church.” “We <Catholic trustees> cannot act independently of each other or of the Alberta Catholic Bishops…” – and Catholic districts even contemplating sharing a facility must “seek and receive support of the local bishop”. – Perhaps the Bishop rather than non-Catholic Albertan’s should be writing the cheque?
ACSTA – “Fiction: Only Catholics can go to Catholic schools.”
Should also read, “…when it suits us.” Lot’s of Catholic schools and boards turn down non-Catholics when it suits them, and accepts them when it suits them. They’re happy to take the public’s money for more secular “Catholic-lite” programming when enrolment is down – but yet refuse to compete fairly with Public schools offering Catholic programming. It’s almost as if they expect to have their privilege cake, and eat it too.
ACSTA – “Fiction: Catholic schools are public schools with a crucifix on the wall and a religion class.”
Despite the Alberta Act specifically detailing that along with the Separate Catholic school districts special privilege, there were also some requirements that must be met – one of which is that “religious instruction” is specifically prohibited until the last 30 minutes of the day. Catholic districts have continued to demand their special treatment and privilege (and money) without ever caring to meet the most basic requirements under which this incredible privilege was granted. (NWT Schol Ord. Ch 29, Sec 137).
ACSTA – “Fiction: Catholic schools teach intolerance and hate towards some groups.”
Sure they don’t. It’s just a consistent, hugely disproportional coincidence that these issues keep showing up in these environments.
The Catholic church’s own teachings on gays, trans, sex & contraception / abortion rights means Human Rights are always going to be in conflict in Catholic schools. One wonders about the logic of founding a government run, publicly funded education system on a club who’s basic teachings fail the Canadian Charter & provincial Human Rights legislation.
ACSTA – “Fiction: Catholic schools do not teach about sexuality and wellness.”
Religion, Catholicism included is so deeply steeped in sexual preoccupation that they cannot fail but to cause misinformation, judgement and worse among our most vulnerable & impressionable. Whether it’s gender identity, sexuality, preference, contraception, abortion, the impurity of sex before marriage – religious dogma is always going to conflict with (more effective) evidence based sex education and the rights accorded all Canadians.
ACSTA – “Fiction: Public schools subsidize Separate schools.”
Another intentionally dishonest twist. Yes. The Public subsidizes (pays for) Catholic schools. Directly the State pumps over a billion and a half dollars a year into Catholic Education – sure, we’d still spend most of that, but on promoting one specific religion?
In terms of how the public direct their property taxes, the average for a Catholic student is $1350 a year. The average for a public student, is over $4,000. The public subsidizes Catholic education by over four hundred million dollars every year just based on a directed property tax shortfall!
So yes, the Public, and especially non-Catholics don’t just pay for, but pay EXTRA for a second duplicate non-cooperative school system, all to unfairly favor one religion in 2017. And despite the incredible privilege that this is, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association and many of the Boards & Trustees continue to show an absolute sense of entitlement for, and lack of respect, humility & fiscal responsibility for the money Albertan’s currently give them.
Written by SEA Director, Luke Fevin