February 7, 2016 1:25 pm

Catholic school advocates tank amalgamation idea on budget consultation site

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TORONTO – Once sitting high atop a list of Ontarians’ most popular budget ideas, a suggestion to amalgamate Catholic and public school boards has taken a precipitous nosedive to 1,715th on a budget consultation website.

Midway through the Liberal government’s online consultation period, during which Ontario residents could post what they wanted to see in the upcoming budget, the amalgamation idea was riding high.

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The original poster suggested amalgamation but wrote that, ideally, the government should stop funding Catholic education as “religious education should be private.”

The idea’s No. 1 status was not meant to be.

Users could vote ideas up or down and the drop to dead last began soon after news stories about the website and its most popular ideas were published on Jan. 12.

The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association sent out a plea to its database, calling on people to “speak up in opposition” on the website to amalgamating school boards and eliminating Catholic school funding, giving suggested talking points.

An average of one person per day was voting the idea down until that point, but Ministry of Finance figures show that on Jan. 13, it received 98 down votes, followed by 266 and 211 the next two days.

The opposition parties are pretty sure the ideas from the website – which decry as an exercise in futility – won’t actually make it in the budget. They’re convinced it’s all but written already.

But Kathy Burtnik, president of the OCSTA, said it was important for all views about Catholic school funding to be known.

“We have a responsibility to those families that choose to send their kids to our schools,” she said.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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