McCleans on Campus Article: Defund Ontario’s Catholic schools

McCleans on Campus Article: Defund Ontario’s Catholic schools - Thanks to HAO for posting this. You can read the OHS POSITION PAPER ON EDUCATION FUNDING

The Halton Catholic District School Board has overturned its ban on gay-straight alliances—and yes, it was probably something  you said.  The board was subject to international ire after its decision  to ban gay-straight alliances caught the media’s attention earlier this  month. Rubbing salt in the already-festering wounds, board director  Alice Anne Lemay decided to draw an unwise parallel to Nazism while  defending the board’s decision. “We don’t have Nazi groups either,” she said to Xtra,  Canada’s gay and lesbian newspaper. “It’s not in accordance with the  teachings of the church. If they wanted to have a club outside of  school, fine, just not in school.”

Well, it turned out people didn’t take to that analogy too well, nor  did they accept the exclusionary rhetoric implied by the decision. So,  unsurprisingly, the board met Tuesday night and voted 6-2 in favour of  scrapping the ban on gay-straight alliances. Michael Pautler, Director  of Education for the Halton Catholic District School Board, reflected on  the decision in a statement released by the board. “The most compelling  voices on this issue have come from some of the students in our care,”  he said.

It would be silly to buy that explanation, of course. When local  MPPs, pundits across the nation, and even celebrity blogger Perez Hilton  chastises the board for its obstructive and prejudicial decision, it’s  hard to believe board members when they proclaim that they suddenly and  spontaneously decided to listen to their students after all. The  controversy tarnished the board’s reputation and promoted the impression  that its interests lie with the Catholic Church, not with the social  wellbeing of its students. When that allegiance is so blaringly  apparent, it becomes all the more outrageous that public dollars are  still fueling Catholic school boards in Ontario.

It’s not just this unfortunate blemish that highlights the  incongruity involved with publicly funding Catholic schools (though  “Public Pays School to Discriminate Against Own Students” is an awesome  headline). Some Catholic schools across the province still refuse to  teach methods of birth control and STI prevention (even though it’s part  of Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum) leaving it up to their students to  educate themselves on preventing pregnancy and sexual diseases.  Creationism is still taught alongside evolution (albeit, supposedly only  in religion class), and the hiring practices invoked by some Catholic boards could, arguably, be called discriminatory. Make no  mistake – churches and religious schools have every right to conduct  themselves in any manner they see fit, but they should not be entitled  to the public dime, especially when their methods and philosophies are  so subjective.

Catholic schools’ exclusive privilege to public dollars is unjust.  Ontario needs to follow Quebec and Newfoundland and move to invest  wholly in secular education, tailored to all students regardless of  religious background. This Halton scandal shows why funding schools  concerned with following the teachings of the church, and not  necessarily the interests of its students, should come to an end. -  author, Robyn Urback