For some, however, this issue is about far more than just money.
Premier of Saskatchewan Brad Wall recently committed to invoke the notwithstanding clause to overrule a court decision that would have cut funding to the province’s Catholic schools in 2018. Judge Donald Layh ruled on April 20 that it went against the Charter to fund “non-minority faith students” in Catholic schools.
This ruling would have allowed the continued provincial funding of faithbased education for Catholic students, but non-Catholic students would have been expected to pay full tuition if they wished to continue attending a Catholic school.
In response, Education Minister Don Morgan asserted the province’s position that all parents and guardians have the right to choose between educational options for their children, including affordable faith-based alternatives. Morgan expressed disappointment with Layh’s ruling, questioning whether the government would also be forced to cut funding to independent schools, many of which are faith-based as well. The province currently spends just over $27 million per year funding 50 to 80 percent of the tuition costs for students attending independent schools.
Christ in the classroom
For some, however, this issue is about far more than just money. Many Christian schools in Canada were started by Dutch Calvinists who immigrated here after World War II. These immigrants believed that it was vital – sometimes even a religious duty – to educate their children in schools that held the same beliefs as their churches and homes. Together, these three bodies were meant to teach future generations what it means to follow Christ.
That is why some supporters of Christian education, especially those in provinces where private Christian schools receive no provincial funding, argue against receiving such financial aid. These supporters fear that provincial funding would lead to government interference with the Christian curriculum and school hiring policies that fulfill the original purpose of Christian education.
However, as Robert Bruinsma wrote in CC a few months ago (“The genesis of public Christian schooling in Edmonton” April 24, 2017), Alberta has shown that it is possible for Christian schools to receive government funding while still teaching kids according to Christian values. In 1999, the Edmonton Society for Christian Schools (ESCE) agreed to become part of the Edmonton Public School Board. The schools involved with the ESCE have received partial funding from the Alberta government ever since while still being considered Christian-based alternatives to public schools.
Eighteen years later, Peter Buisman, the current Executive Director of the ESCE, believes that this decision was incredibly wise. “In addition to sharpening our own sense of our vision and mission,” Buisman told Bruinsma, “it has freed up money to remunerate our teachers more fairly, and also to provide money for Christian curriculum development in ways that would have been impossible had we stayed on our own.”
There are no easy solutions when it comes to educating covenant children. We want them to be taught according to Christian truth and values, but Christian education is just not a financial possibility for every family. We should be grateful, then, for anyone willing to stand for a financially supported Christian education so long as that support does not require our schools to sacrifice their commitment to God and his truth.