A new poll suggests Albertans support fully funding religious schools more than any other province—but there’s still not a majority who believe it’s a good idea.
The Angus Reid poll found that 43 per cent of respondents thought the province should fully fund religious institutions.
A program director from Cardus Education, a Christian think tank, thinks the results make sense when you look at Alberta’s “educational landscape.”
“Almost a quarter of the province’s students attend a public Catholic school,” Dr. Beth Green said. “An additional 4.4 per cent of students attend independent schools, more than 61 per cent of which are religiously affiliated. Government funding of religious schools lets Alberta families make the best choices for their children’s education.”
The poll, which Angus Reid says surveyed 1,972 Canadian adults, also said that 27 per cent supported at least partial funding.
“Albertans see the benefits of having a diversity of educational options available for their children,” Green added. “They show it through strong enrollment in religious schools. And they confirm it through the strongest support in the country for full funding of religious schools whether delivered in public or independent sectors.”
For Luke Fevin, the founder of Albertan Parents for Unbiased Public Inclusive Learning (APUPIL), the numbers tell a different story.
Thirty per cent of respondents said they don’t support providing funding at all; combine that with the 27 per cent who only support partial funding and that means 57 per cent are against fully funding religious schools.
“It’s a clear majority that don’t think we should be continuing to do what we’re currently doing, which is fully funding them,” he said.
He also points to the fact that the three provinces that had the highest number of respondents vote for fully supporting – Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario – are the three provinces that still provide separate streams of public funding for Catholic schools.
“I don’t think it’s that all the people want to fund religious schools; I think people sometimes just vote for whatever their normal is,” Fevin said. “This is the normal here, so we vote to not change.”
Fevin added the rhetoric that it’s time to merge the public and Catholic school boards is “getting louder” all the time. He thinks it’s in line with the economic situation in Alberta.
“I think when we had a little more money in this province, we didn’t mind spending a little extra on what felt like choice, but now money’s getting a little tight. The fact that we run two non-cooperative, duplicate school systems and we lose somewhere in the region of $200 million every year in inefficiencies, that gives cause for a concern.”
Nationally, 39 per cent of respondents think there should be no funding provided at all, while 30 per cent support partial funding and 31 per cent supported full funding.
The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Oct. 16 to 23 among a randomized sample of 1,972 Canadian adults who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The survey carries a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.