The Ontario election campaign has heated up over the issue of education funding. John Tory came out swinging with a plan to bring religion-based independent schools into the public system – a big-government solution that should send conservatives running for the hills, and independent school administrators cowering in legitimate fear of having educrats from Queen’s Park meddling into their business.
Premier McGuinty returned with, to use a tennis metapor this U.S. Open season, a volley that caromed off his racket and into his own face, when he attacked Tory’s plan for being “divisive”. Andrew Coyne beautifully eviscerates McGuinty and his hypocricy in today’s National Post:
The position he is attempting to defend is that public funding should be available to schools professing the Catholic faith, and no other. The opposition Conservatives’ position, that funding should be available equally to all religious schools, is consistent, at least as between faiths — though why religious schools should be preferred to secular is a question the Tories might wish to answer. But the Liberal position is simply incoherent.
With Tory now in the ridiculous position of having to invent a creationism policy on the fly, it’s time to ask the question that, for all the hundreds of articles written to date, I haven’t seen asked: WHAT ABOUT CHARTER SCHOOLS? It’s the ultimate conservative solution to public education: let parents and communities decide how to educate their children, within the boundaries of a charter of responsibilities that include testing on the basics of the provincial curriculum.
I can only guess as to why Tory chose the big-government educrat policy over Charter schools or, at the very least, a return to the Harris/Eves tax credit scheme that was overturned by McGuinty his first days in office.
- He believed that Charter Schools were somehow “right-wing radical”, and chose what he felt was a more moderate position;
- Certain faith-based school administrators, tired of raising money privately and faced with budget crunches, convinced him that feeding them a regular stream of public dough was a great idea;
- He calculated that overturning the constitution to remove Catholic school funding would be too politically difficult, but fixing the unfairness issue this way was the next-best thing.
- He is simply another nanny-state liberal who believes that government is the answer!
The issue has done nothing to help Tory’s fortunes. It has opened up a can of worms that has made both parties look bad to various constituencies. But with the power of incumbency and the powerful inertia of the status quo behind him, a draw on this issue means McGuinty, for all his hypocricy, wins.
Where, oh where, does a small-government conservative turn? I’ll still turn to Tory. Demonizing religious education as “divisive” is as low as McGuinty has ever gone – this crass, soulless politico simply has to go. And implying that Jewish or Protestant schools should be thrown into the same category as Islamic Madrassas – that’s simply beyond the pale.