April 13, 2018 9:19 pm
Updated: April 13, 2018 11:23 pm

Should ‘elite’ private schools get public cash? Vancouver school trustee wants funding cut

A Vancouver City Councillor is calling on the province to stop funding "elite" private schools.

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A Vancouver school trustee is calling on the province to cut public funding to “elite” private schools.

OneCity Vancouver’s Carrie Bercic is targeting so-called “Group 2” independent schools: institutions that spend more per student than the public system does, including high-end prep schools such as St. George’s and Crofton House.

Under the provincial independent school funding formula, Group 2 schools receive 35 per cent of the amount of public money per student that public schools do.

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Bercic has proposed a motion to the Vancouver School Board asking it to petition the province to end that practice.

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She argues the public system has been chronically underfunded, and that tax money shouldn’t go to schools that can exclude students.

“Our tax dollars should be going towards things that are a public good for everybody to have access to,” she said.

“Right now, I want to focus on getting our public system back to where every student has all of the resources they need to succeed.”

Bercic’s motion specifically excludes Group 2 schools that focus on instruction for special needs students.

B.C. private schools are slated to receive more than $426 million in this year’s budget.

However, the province’s 72 Group 2 schools account for just a fraction of that. According to the Ministry of Education, Group 2 schools received just over $45 million in operating grants in the 2016-2017 school year.

WATCH: Private schools vs. public schools debate

Bercic acknowledges that parents have the right to send their kids to any kind of school that they want. But she said if they want to make use of elite schools, it should not be at public expense.

“Public education is a public good, this is the way that we educate our citizens, the way that we expose our students to all sorts of variety of different people and experience,” she said.

“In private schools, they don’t always get all of those same opportunities.”

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But Peter Froese, executive director of the B.C. Federation of Independent Schools, said it’s unfair to say that private schools aren’t contributing to the public good, and said they teach the same curriculum.

And he argued they do it at significant savings to the public.

“The average cost to educate a student in the private sector is over $9,000. The cost to educate a student in independent schools is only $4,000, that’s a savings of over $5,000 that the government can put to other valuable social services.”

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Bercic’s motion has been sent to a Vancouver School Board committee, but will return to the board for a vote at the end of May. She said she hasn’t spoken with her colleagues about which way they might vote on it.

Should the motion succeed, however, it appears likely to fall on deaf ears.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said the funding formula for independent schools has been in place for three decades, “and there are no plans to change that.”

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