Are you going to have to cover all the costs of a private school education?

May 3, 2010

Recently Rod Mickelburgh wrote in the Globe and Mail that the newly appointed advisor to the Vancouver School Board by the province wants private schools to lose their public funding. It raises an interesting debate.

According to the consultant, she believes “Private schools should not get public school funding. They shouldn’t get tax dollars. … If parents choose to send their children to a private school, they anticipate that it’s going to cost them money. If they want that type of education, they should have to pay for it.”

Well what is the kind of education we should have for our children, and is it fair to ask the parent to completely cover the bill? What if our public school education is not working exactly the way we want it to? Shouldn’t we as a society have options with some support through our hard-earned tax paying dollars? Or does that only cover those that have the means?

And what is the kind of education that is valuable? Thomas Friedman, the well-known New York Times columnist says that the kind of education we need for the 21st century is not a technically driven, memorize the facts, left brain approach. The reason is that, he says, left-brain activities can be outsourced to India or done by the latest software and apps. What we need, he says, is the kind of education that teaches synthesis, creativity, storytelling and lateral thinking.

Our treasurer Roger Shiner, who is also a Philosophy professor at UBC, has some thoughts on why private school funding should not be cut.

Here is an excerpt from his letter to the editor.

Re: Rod Mickleburgh, Globe and Mail BC, “Headscratcher”, Friday April 30th

Your correspondent Mr. Mickleburgh wonders why private schools in BC are supported by government funds. He intends to imply that such support is a waste of funds. But it is not.

Government support allows independent schools to have lower fees, thus opening their doors to a wider range of BC children than just children of the wealthy. This is especially true if a school has, as we do, its own program of tuition adjustment to assist families who might otherwise not think of attending an independent school.

If our government funding were withdrawn, our fees would double, and a majority of families would not be able to afford the School. These families would return to the public system, where they would cost twice as much to educate. Government support for independent schools in BC offers British Columbians freedom of choice in educating their children, and offers the taxpayers of BC a bargain – first-class education for half the cost of public education. Successive governments in BC have been far-sighted enough to see the value that partially supported independent schools provide to the citizens of BC. Let’s not try to change that now.

 Roger A. Shiner


Kelowna Waldorf School

Please voice your opinion on this to Globe and Mail, and let us know what you think by commenting on this blog post below. ~ James Riley

This is the original column:

But now in today’s paper there is this one too: