Before We Write Off "Private" SchoolsBefore We Write Off "Private" Schools

Before We Write Off "Private" Schools

Brian Harskamp
2 minute read
Like Convivium? , our free weekly email newsletter.

Dear Mr. Quinn, My name is Brian Harskamp and I am one of the kids who benefited from the annual $358 million “subsidy” for private schools you mentioned in your recent Globe and Mail column “Vancouver public schools face closure, yet we fund private school education.” I thought I would tell you a little bit about myself. I come from Surrey, not West Vancouver or downtown for that matter. My parents, small business owners, saved to pay tuition and were often asked to give a little more where they could for maintenance or a new wing. No one drives a Mercedes in our neighborhood, and in fact, there were a lot of used cars in the school parking lot. I noticed your column missed a few things. Today my school has 880 local full time students with an additional 70 to 80 international students and 90 to 100 preschool students. The tuition per family is $6480.00. Given that the average family in our school has 1.6 kids, that means the average per student cost is $4050.00 for the year. This is hardly the ivy walled elitism you suggest goes hand in hand with private education. As the CBC (the organization for which you work) reported earlier this year, public schools in Surrey are bursting. Might it not be the case that the government paying families less than half of what it costs per student in public schools is, in fact, a really good idea in Surrey? This looks like a win for all. Public schools have more money and my parents were allowed to send me to a school of their choice. Here is the other thing you don’t mention. After controlling for income and other socio-economic factors it turns out that these independent (you say “private”) schools give kids a very strong education. Most recent Cardus Education Survey data shows that these kids, when compared to the publicly funded schools as a benchmark, not only produce strong academic scores, but are more actively involved in the community. In fact, these schools cultivate just the type of citizens we would like to see in such a diverse place as Surrey and, I imagine, Canada. One final thing. Are you sure that a little bit of competition to a large education monopoly might not just make everyone perform a little better? Surely the 12 percent who attend independent schools can provide a bit of healthy competition for the 88 percent of those who do not? Surely there’s room—as other countries in Europe indicate—for public and private schools to thrive together with the shared goal of forming individuals who live for the common good? My wife and I now live in Ontario. We are a regular working Hamilton family. We have two children and hope to send them to independent school, something for which we’ve already started to save. In Ontario, we have what you want for BC: independent schools are not subsidized. But this “utopian” ideal you set up for BC has proven (like most utopias) to be largely illusory. BC scores are consistently higher. Before we write off “private” schools as elitist silos of privilege, it bears reminding that private schools have a proven track record of being a public good. So rather than pushing for an environment in which smaller, independent schools are left to fend for themselves, we might be better off imagining how in our increasingly complex and diverse society, we find ways to best encourage the growth of local educational institutions that meet community needs and serve the larger society.

You'll also enjoy...

God's Preferential Option for Public Schools? Some Questions

God's Preferential Option for Public Schools? Some Questions

For example, those who champion Christian involvement in the public schools seem to focus on Christian schools as "private" enclaves of retreat and withdrawal, "holy huddles" whereby Christian children are sheltered from the world And at the heart of the best Christian schools is an integral vision ...

Time for a national conversation on parental choice in education

Time for a national conversation on parental choice in education

They all offer varying levels of support for independent schools and are all examples of provinces striving to achieve a greater balance between access and parental choice There is no funding for independent schools in the province and so Ontario’s parents don’t have access to the same level of choi...

Join Convivium

Convivium means living together. Unlike many digital magazines, we haven’t put up a digital paywall. We want to keep the conversation regarding faith in our common and public life as open as possible.

Get a weekly wrap up of the latest articles delivered right to your inbox.