Friday, January 28, 2011

Defenders of the faith(-based)

Tying two related / unrelated things from the past few days.
First is the Chatham Daily News' reporting on statements by the director of education at the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.
Paul Wubben said as enrolment continues to decline in Ontario, and with a provincial election on the horizon in October, the call for one school system will likely be made.
"This would come as a detriment to publicly funded education in Ontario," wrote Wubben. "The turmoil and confusion that would ensue would disrupt elementary and secondary schools for years to come."
In his report, submitted to trustees Tuesday, Wubben attempts to dispel several myths about Catholic education.
On the assumption that Catholic schools are a duplication of public schools and it would be more efficient to have one system, Wubben said the current system of four publicly funded school systems (English public, English Catholic and French public and French Catholic) is working.
Noting that 2.5 million ratepayers support the education of 670,000 Catholic students in English and French schools, Wubben said education funding in Ontario is calculated on a per-pupil basis, regardless of which school a student attends.
"Attempting to amalgamate the four school systems would cause massive upheaval; and based on past experience, would lead to higher costs," he said in the report.
I'm intrigued by the timing of this. No doubt the St. Clair board's challenge for relevancy is a very different situation than it might be in Toronto (more on this below) or, say, Ottawa. Though quite Christian, I wouldn't describe the St. Clair board's catchment area as very Catholic at all. Not having an ear to the ground there, I'm unaware of whether any specific calls for a single system have been coming out of Chatham-Kent.
I don't know what the fear is. Certainly, the province isn't interested in abolishing the publicly funded Catholic boards, if today's reinstatement of the Toronto Catholic District School Board is any indication. The minister's statement here, with coverage in the Star, the Sun, the Globe and Mail -- nothing up on the National Post site as I write this.
From the minister's statement:
The board has also improved ties with the community. This commitment to ensure good governance has positioned it to meet its mandate for student success and promote confidence in publicly-funded education.
Effective school board governance is a prerequisite to student success. It is a public expectation and it is the law. I place a great deal of importance on the role of locally elected trustees in serving their students and communities.
Given some of the questionable trustees from the last term were returned and, overall, the board of trustees doesn't look that different from the one spinning its wheels before the Oct. 25, 2010 election, I'm curious whether the minister's words will ring hollow this term. I would be paying closer attention to the board as it deals with its 2011-12 budget in the April - June time frame. I would expect this board to be facing declining enrolment and other cost pressures, let's see if the appetite for balancing a budget (or at least refusing to do so without leaving the board littered with conflict-of-interest allegations and court proceedings).
These TCDSB trustees are the current defenders of the faith-based system in Toronto. Unless they want to give others, like Wubben, cause for concern one would hope we don't see a repeat of 2008.