November 6th, 2001
Parental choice is an essential component in education reform.
The Harris government has gone further than any previous government towards recognizing the responsibility of parents in the education of their children, by implementing education tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools.
Private school customers have now more choice than before, but Harris did the opposite for the other 90% of the parents: he centralized decision making.
Decisions such as choice of school, how schools can raise money, how they can spend it, hiring practices and curriculum, are more removed than ever from the parents of public and separate schools.
So if private school supporters are happier than before, the rest of us are worse off.
The introduction of education tax credits is not a structural reform. At best, there will be no difference in the organization, staffing, size and cost of the Ministry of Education and School Boards. There will be no difference, as a consequence of tax credits, on the quality of public and separate education.
Education tax credits are just an accounting measure, which can be as easily reversed by the next (probably Liberal) government. These credits may be an incentive for parents to use private schools, but with little government commitment, few new private schools may venture to open. The Family Coalition Party is still the only party that would encourage structural reform by proposing true parental choice across the board, with the use of vouchers in education. It is only when all parents have choices, together with money in their hands to spend in education, that real competition among all schools (public, separate, private and independent) can truly work.Only then we will see the level of education rise for all Ontario students and the amount of wasted money decrease.