Via The Tyee, June 7, 2014: Regaining Respect for Education. Excerpt:
As the conflict drags on between B.C. teachers and the government, it's brought out other conflicts: the competition for funds between the public and independent schools, and the political conflict between two visions of society.
Some public school supporters call for moving the subsidy to independent schools back to the public system. And it's a logical position. Historically, taxpayers paid only for the public schools. Socred patriarch W.A.C. Bennett was adamant that if parents didn't like the public system, they could pay the whole shot for schools more to their liking.
It was Bennett's son Bill who created the subsidies that made the private schools "independent." It was seen then as a straight political bribe, but it's now as entrenched as the Agricultural Land Reserve (probably more).
Our two-tier school system also reflects B.C.'s conflicted attitude toward education. Until we change that attitude, little else will change.
As a thought experiment, though, let's consider pulling public support from the independent schools and letting those schools fend for themselves again.
According to the Federation of Independent School Associations, about 74,000 kids are in the independent system now, compared to 514,000 in the public schools. Some families would sacrifice to keep their kids in independent schools, but it would be financially impossible for many. Without the $245 million that helps support them (at the average rate of $3,310 per student), some independent schools would simply have to close or merge.
In theory, the public-school population would simply grow back toward its late-1990s level, which peaked in 1997-98 at 615,000. In practice, many school districts would have nowhere to put a sudden increase in students; many school facilities have been closed, sold or repurposed. So an influx of students might look like a return to the 1950s, when the first baby boomers went to school in shifts.
And what about the teachers in the independent schools? Many, but not all, are qualified to teach in the public system. Would they migrate into the B.C. Teachers' Federation, and would they bring their seniority with them? Neither they nor the BCTF would welcome such a merger except on carefully negotiated terms. Nor would school boards enjoy suddenly having to meet much bigger teacher payrolls.
Awkward demands on schools
Many independent schools have a strong religious foundation, whether Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Sikh or Muslim. Some of those schools would survive, but others would not; their pupils would have to enter the public system. Religious students certainly thrive in the public schools, but the new kids by definition would be from families that don't like or trust those schools. They might well make awkward demands: time for prayers in a reserved space, or refusal to be vaccinated, or dietary requirements that would be hard to satisfy.
Even the emigres from secular independent schools could be a problem. Their parents would themselves tend to be well educated and concerned about standards. They could well put pressure on local principals, parent advisory councils, and school boards for more and better programs -- even if Victoria refused to spend another dime on education.