Ain’t nothing wrong with faith

IMG_4436After yesterday’s little rant about public funding going to “independent schools”, let me be clear about something: I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with religion or with faith (I know some folks disagree, but that’s a discussion for another time). As someone who spent every summer in bible school, who helped run church youth groups, who was Baha’i for a number of years, I chose to be baptised in my late 20s, and while my current religious beliefs are really nobody’s business (I’ll talk about it if you ask), I think faith is lovely. I think prayer is lovely. If religious belief and/or adherence is something that enriches your life, practising your faith is one of the most profound things you can do, and I think that’s awesome.

Faith is not the problem. The problem is that we must develop and maintain a separation of church and state. With “independent schools” receiving public funding, we have a situation where private service institutions are funded, in part, by public tax revenue – your tax dollars may be used to support an institution in which your children may not be eligible to enrol.

(Aside: I also have a problem with schools that receive public funding calling themselves “independent schools”, and yes, I understand they mean “independent of the public school system”, but truly what they mean is “private schools” or “alternative schools”. So. There’s that bugbear.)

In other words, this isn’t an attack on religion. It’s not even a rail against religious schools or faith-based instruction or home schooling. It’s a rail against spending public funds on what are, ostensibly, private institutions. I’m pretty sure that if I wanted to send one of my kids to an “independent school”, I’d have to pay tuition. And that’s fine and I would expect to do so, but I sure as hell don’t think tuition for private schools should be subsidised by tax revenue. ESPECIALLY when we’re in a situation where our public school system is facing funding shortfalls, cutbacks, and even closures.

We should have all KINDS of educational institutions. Truly independent schools where if you want your children to have specialised or focussed education (arts, athletics, religion, gender-specific, elite academics), you should have to pay the full tuition (barring scholarships, bursaries, etc. from the private sector). Faith-based schools should receive their funding only from tuition, from the religious institution with which they’re associated, and from private sponsorship and patronage. There’s room here for governments to provide scholarships *for non faith-based education* to individual students, but not to subsidise the institutions themselves.

Faith was never the problem. The problem has always been the necessity to separate (and to KEEP separate) church and state. Public funding has no place in faith-based institutions, if we are to truly have an open and democratic society. (Also the rant about ending tax leniency/exemptions for faith-based institutions and private business will come at a later date.)

cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.


  1. Question, which I haven’t been able to think through in all its implications: if the independent school must follow the provincially mandated curriculum, it seems to me at first blush that spending provincial dollars to educate the provincially mandated portion of the students’ learning may be OK, since it’s not really paying for the non-mandated portion. What is your response to that?

  2. In order to operate a “school” legally in Saskatchewan, you have to adhere to provincially mandated curricula. That’s the “cost of doing business”, as it were, as a school. So no, I’m not okay with public money going to “independent schools”‘ provincially mandated curricula; if you want to have a school which is legally allowed to accept student enrolment, you have to provide provincially approved curriculum.

    If you charge tuition for your “independent school”, you should not be eligible to receive public per-student funding.

  3. I see what you mean; there is still some grey though, I think. Extra costs and fundraising varies significantly between public schools, and a commensurate wide difference exists between what extracurricular activities and support are offered through the school and often during instruction hours-which makes it similar to tuition.

    My concern would be that if there are real needs being met by independent schools (which may or may not be faith based needs) that the public system can’t meet then removing public funding makes those needs meetable only for the wealthiest.

    I’m still a little fuzzy on the whole thing, I think.

    1. For people who can’t afford private school, there is public school that addresses all the provincially mandated curriculum. If you want your kids to learn theology or religion, they can learn at home or at church.

      I cannot imagine what curriculum-based needs are being met by private schools that could not be met with properly funded public schools. And I have NO PROBLEM with private school only being available for people who can afford tuition. Provided there are publicly available options available. And if there aren’t, the province should be providing it.

  4. I always thought it would have been awesome if the public school system had offered me a tenth of what they supposedly pay per pupil to homeschool mine with. Instead, they offered me a copy of their crappy curriculum – which was the very reason I was homeschooling (to get away from).

    So no assistance there, even though I saved the public coffers about 20K a year (supposedly – I don’t trust ANY of their accounting). 2K would have paid for everything we needed every year – including computers.

    They waste so much money! And time! and patience and resources and… And give your kid such a crappy education in return for the taxpayer money.

    1. In SK, you can get up to 50% funding for homeschooling, I believe, provided you pass the requirements to be a licensed homeschooled.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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