Letter: Private school subsidies create uneven playing field

By Jim Wilson | Published Sept 10, 2015 by The Montreal Gazettewilson

Re: “Public education matters to all of us” (Celine Cooper, Sept. 8)

One would think the headline would produce little argument. Yet, in her column, Celine Cooper unwittingly reveals the inaccuracy of that remark. When referring to the “abysmal high school dropout rates and levels of illiteracy” she notes that “parents who can afford private schools jump ship.”

Dropout rates must be qualified; the private schools’ exceedingly high graduation rates contrast sharply with those of the French public system. In fairness, the public English system does not mirror its French public counterparts.

At this time, the number of students attending French private schools exceeds the number going to the entire English sector. Cooper’s point that “all Quebecers deserve a quality education regardless of how much their parents make,” should be true, but that is not the case.

And why not? French private school tuition is subsidized by up to 70 per cent from the public purse. Parents, by the thousand, with just moderate incomes, see that subsidy as an encouragement to abandon failing public schools, which have been affected by the loss of some of the more academically oriented students and a disproportionate increase in those with special needs.

Of course, the demand for aid for special needs students is an outgrowth of the questionable practice of “inclusion.” At one time, there were small groups with specialist teachers, but that has been supplanted by placing those students in regular classes that are often beyond the maximum contractually permitted.

The government’s austerity program does not envisage reducing subsidies to private schools, yet they are cutting support for special needs students in the public schools. I am hesitant to accept notion that “public education matters to all of us” when it  is contradicted by a  government policy that is supportive of private schools — but not those in the public sector.

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