Op-ed on Private School Subsidies and Two Letters in Response

Opinion: For my son, English high schools failed

By Juliet Waters | Published October 12, 2012 by the Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL — I always expected my children to follow my educational path, more or less: French elementary school to develop a good accent, English high school to develop writing.

Every time I went to alumnae dinners at Sacred Heart School, it seemed tuition had doubled from what it had been at the time of the last dinner. So I figured, no problem: it will be public school for my children. Back in my day, education at a Catholic confessional school was pretty close to that. I had schoolmates from hard-working immigrant families, neighbouring suburbs, Kahnawake (Sacred Heart was once a boarding school) and the wealthiest parts of Westmount. When I went to Marianopolis, I made friends from great public schools.

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Opinion+English+high+schools+failed/7381516/story.html#ixzz29eBscx6T

Letter: Private schools are out of reach for most families

By Robert Green | Published October 15, 2012 by the Montreal Gazette

While I certainly respect Juliet Waters’s decision to do what’s best for her child, her assertion that Quebec’s private schools are meeting the needs of the “lower middle class” is something of a stretch. The average Quebec household enjoys just $53,000 in disposable income. For single-parent households that number drops to just $28,400. It is therefore hard to imagine that, even with some form of subsidy, an average Quebec household could afford the $3,000 per student per year fees charged by many French-language private schools. These numbers illustrate the reality that private schools subsidized by the taxes of all Quebecers are out of reach for the majority of families.

This perverse situation where working class families are subsidizing the education of elites should be opposed by all citizens who believe that educational opportunities should exist for all Quebecers, not just those with above average incomes.

Letter: Public schools serve the common good

By Eric Houde | Published October 13, 2012 by the Montreal Gazette

Education Minister Marie Malavoy has political courage I never thought I would see in my lifetime.

The end of subsidies to private schools that choose their students based on admission tests would allow for the rebuilding of our very damaged public education system. Without the subsidy, much of the ordinary (francophone) middle class will be forced to re-invest their children in the public system. That will lead to a not-so-miraculous rise in its success rates. It will also strengthen the culture of achievement for everyone by having more strong, motivated students in the public classroom and vocal middle class parents as stakeholders in the public system. Let us remember that in Montreal, about 35 per cent of secondary students are enrolled in private schools. Compare that to Toronto’s 6 per cent. This has been a disaster for our public schools and thus for our democracy.

Juliet Waters (“For my son, English high schools failed the test” Opinion, Oct. 13) rightly points out a very frustrating reality in Montreal. The public system has to imitate the private system with exclusive admissions standards if some of its schools were to retain strong middle-class students. Because the private system is so inexpensive in Quebec, it is able to attract the strongest students in its drive for top marks and a marketable reputation of excellence. The elite public schools are as good as anything the private system has to offer except they might have poorer infrastructure, mould or torn books. Their brand is not quite as glamorous. They usually don’t have iPads and Chinese language courses like Regina Assumpta, nor are they as successful in accumulating dollars for a huge, wealthy foundation of private donations (tax deductible) to create beautiful entrance ways and music facilities.

When you do the open house circuit and go from the very good French public school Académie de Roberval to Regina Assumpta, it is a vertiginous culture shock. And it seems bloody unfair. Roberval is an admirable yellow school bus of a school with great results. Regina is a Mercedes-Benz, with even better results and a glamorous name. Both will get your kid where he or she needs to go.

The question of where we send our children is an individual decision. Some are convinced they need a Mercedes for their kid. The government, however, must make decisions in favour of the larger good of society. The decision to no longer subsidize the Mercedes-Benz schools is a sound and just policy decision in favour of that old yellow school bus, the common good.

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