Growing up, I thought the Catholic school system was a waste of government funds. I also thought it unfair that Catholic’s had their very own publicly funded schools, when no other religious or ethnic group had one. I thought it unfair since this diversion of government resources likely affected how my publicly funded school was financed. Lastly, I also thought Catholic-friendly hiring practices by the Catholic school system put non-Catholics, such as myself, at a disadvantage. Today, I believe the benefits outweigh the costs.
A Brief History
A vestige from the constitution days aimed at appeasing Quebec’s Catholics who thought their rights would disappear in Protestant-heavy Ontario. However, there appears to be some recent comments from their 2016 Budget, & from high-up Provincial Liberals hinting that defunding the Catholic School system is a primary aim.
Removing the Catholic School System would likely require a constitutional amendment and in today’s political environment, that’s basically asking for something not to get done. This was the same stalling tactic that stopped the senate from being abolished, even though Harper had been promising that since his Reform party days. To put into perspective how daunting a task it is to get something that requires a constitutional amendment done, it requires provinces representing 50 percent of the population as well as 7/10 provinces to agree to that change. However insurmountable this might seem, Quebec was able to rid their Education system of their Catholic school board in the 90’s, so maybe Ontario can follow through with their goal.
Now going through 2 different public high schools in 2 different cities, a 5-year STEM undergrad & a wide variety of continuing education courses (Economics & French), my previously held views have changed. I’ve also been given the opportunity to interact with a wide array of students who’ve come from many different backgrounds and this has helped evolve my views on public funding for the Catholic School board.
Firstly, I am not for monopolies in any government provided service. Each service or product offering needs an element of competition to act as a feedback into the service to weed out inefficiencies. Since competition is the lifeblood of innovation, when humans put artificial rules (like there should only be 1 publicly-funded school board) this introduces inefficiencies into the system; in this case, the system is our children’s education.
When you look at any service, open and free information flow has allowed humans the opportunity to innovate and come out with solutions that would not have otherwise been conceptualized. Meaning we stand on the shoulders of giants, in every single industry. There is no such thing as an overnight product, today’s modern day corporations have been able to manage value add services to create products that the market uses. Successful companies talk through their problems and ensure that problems do not occur twice. In the industries that I have worked in, I have been able to observe that continuous improvement is in focus in today’s working world. The ability to think lean while performing a task, so that non-value add activities are eliminated, is essential for career advancement in today’s day and age.
Getting back to competition being the lifeblood of innovation, I point to technological advances in cell phone technology. This has allowed international companies to take advantage of the global competitive framework, to innovate and now release phones with more technology than our space shuttles of the 70’s & 80’s. This highlights the remarkable progress created by a global competitive framework. If innovation is hindered (e.g. government service) we may be walking around with the Zach Morris bricks in our pockets.
This brings me to my second point, that choice is a good thing. Choice is a good thing because it allows consumers to pick options that would not be present if there was only 1 producer offering a service. It allows consumers to pick a product without having to go through the bureaucratic nightmare that is trying to change an element of the public school system. This is HUGE. Improvements in services happen on the fly with markets in open competition. With monopolies, there’s a lot more bureaucracy that changes have to pass through. Either that, or, the monopoly will just be unwilling to change, and because they are the only one offering the service, you just have to live with it. In the high school case, this would be the government having 1 product offering (the public school system) to offer its citizens. Don’t like the level of math taught in high schools? Too bad, unless you want to join the endless bureaucratic circus. Don’t like how specialized one school is in graduating non-STEM students? Too bad, see above. Wish a school offered a Finance basics course or even a cooking course? Evidence by recent TDSB Trustee spending scandal, school boards don’t maximize spending on schools, large budget for the upkeep of the school boards themselves too…
As a recent STEM graduate, I am very disillusioned with how little High School prepared me for the Math & Science courses that I had to learn in University. If you’re going into a STEM undergrad, be prepared to work harder in your first semester than all 4 years of high school put together. High school math in Ontario is a joke. When going through my undergrad, I was supremely annoyed by how “foreign kids” knew more than I did. I attributed this to private schools they had attended in their home countries, but this introduction to concepts, early on in their education, was essential to a lot of their success. Learning concepts like that earlier, allowed them to apply those concepts in 1st & 2nd year classes, rather than learning them – like the situation that many Ontario kids are in. It seems like they had learned all first year courses in high school, as well as learning many concepts like supply chain management, nearly all first-year calculus & many first-year science concepts, that we had never sniffed in an Ontario high school classroom. There seems to be very little incentive for high schools to innovate and as the rest of the world gets smarter, this will decrease Canada’s competitive advantage in offering the brightest and smartest workforce.
From anecdotal information presented above, I also want to introduce an Economics Paper that points to similar conclusions, I have outlined above. Choice in education leads to a self-corrective feedback mechanism so schools compete against each other to offer high quality education service. This is common sense for any arena of service that relevant information leads to better results.
The Catholic School Board introduces positive externalities on education in Ontario. Doing away with it and going with 1 publicly-funded school board, might introduce more inefficiencies since many jurisdictions would lose this competitive component between the Catholic school system & Public school system in a given region. All of a sudden, the failed 2007 Voucher program for schools that the Ontario Conservatives presented doesn’t seem so crazy.
Article was written by gtareguy (Greater Toronto area real Estate guy) . I release a new article every Friday and I write about economics, the nba and real estate in the GTA.