LETTER: Alberta’s schools are funded by all taxpayers

A Ponoka News reader responds to the web poll results story related to separate school systems

Dear Editor,

Re: Your June 11/2018 article (web poll results printed June 13) on separate school “choice”.

The discussion of whether “separate” schools should receive taxpayer funding has been distorted by the misleading fallacy that religious schools are funded only by those who choose them. In Alberta, religious schools are funded by all taxpayers, including those who do not choose them.

Red Deer, where I live, no longer wastes ink on its property tax form with a phoney but meaningless option to support either the “public” or “separate” school system. Both systems receive exactly the same per-student provincial funding as before when the discontinued but deceptive option was still used.

Property tax revenues do not come close to funding Alberta’s public and separate schools. The shortfall is made up from general revenues, expanding the inroad of religious school funding beyond property taxes. So, too, with the so-called “private” schools that, despite their name, receive 70 per cent public support.

Maintaining two comparable, taxpayer-funded school systems with identical functions is costly. In September, 2017 Alberta Views magazine reported that, beyond the cost of instructing students, in 2015-2016 “Catholic boards in Alberta spent $229-million on operations and maintenance, $64-million on transportation and $59-million on administration. Much of these costs would be eliminated in a single system … .” How many more teachers and what program and facility improvements could Alberta afford if not burdened with two parallel systems?

Canada rightly prides itself on personal freedom. Some wrongly confuse their right to school choice with entitlement to taxpayer funding of their personal choice. Coercing people through the tax system to pay for other people’s personal religious choices necessarily violates their religious freedom to believe and act as they choose. Whether through the Catholic system, so-called private schools, or religiously oriented alternative programs in public schools, public funding of religious schools unquestionably violates the Charter-protected religious freedom of those who are coerced to pay for other people’s choices. No one’s religious freedom outweighs the religious freedom of anyone else.

William Weiswasser

Red Deer

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