The Runner Debates: Public Schools v. Private Schools

Funding increase to private schools is a symbol of elitism and ignorance

by Alyssa Laube

Despite receiving over a half-billion taxpayer dollars in public school funding last year, the Vancouver School Board finds itself encumbered with a $24-million deficit. Nearly 30 other districts are facing similar crises province-wide due to a collective funding cut of $81-million to public schools.

As a result, they have been closing at an alarming rate.

The closures are denying thousands of students and faculty of an accessible place to learn and work. Meanwhile, private schools were publicly funded with $341-million this year—$30 million more than last year—and they represent a fraction of all educational facilities in British Columbia.

As a whole, private schools are not struggling to support themselves to the same extent. That’s why they charge for their services, and yet they are receiving nearly as much annual funding as schools that don’t.

In the midst of their struggle, public schools reached out to the province for financial assistance. In response, Premier Christy Clark promptly increased the funding to private schools.

Understandably, this has inspired an outrage in British Columbia. Citizens are asking why a system in need is being passed up for a prosperous one that benefits the elite minority. The Vancouver School Board is distressed and insulted, citing the province’s budget surplus of nearly $400-million as an ideal opportunity to aid public schools. The explanation for Clark’s decision so far seems to be that private schools provide a more hands-on, personal learning experience, but it seems that she may be forgetting who makes up the majority of her province.

Clark personally sends her child to a private school that charges between $20,000 and $30,000 per student in annual tuition, but most British Columbian families can’t afford that price tag. Unlike Clark and the rest of the one per cent, they don’t have thousands of dollars to spare, and free primary and secondary education is a massive benefit to living in a province that is supposed to provide it to all of its citizens, regardless of wealth or status.

Right now, it isn’t doing that. It seems like common sense to help a public industry that benefits the majority of British Columbian residents, particularly one that educates youth and acts as an enormous source of employment. The underfunding that Clark is supporting is not only putting hundreds of school workers out of a job, it’s also blatantly insulting to those who can’t afford to pay an extra $20,000 a year to send their children to private facilities.

Throwing some money at private schools won’t make enrollment more affordable for the average family. Even if the tuition price was halved, the majority still wouldn’t be willing or able to sacrifice that much cash. The price of university has been preventing people from getting a higher education for ages, and for many, the free price of primary and secondary school is the only reason why they hold a high school diploma.

It will, however, thicken the wallets of the already-rich population that can afford them. The fact that Clark is a part of that population has to be more than sheer coincidence.

By refusing to pull public schools out of their current rut, Clark is saying that she doesn’t value the common people enough to sacrifice aspects of the elite world that she and her children live in. Not to mention that taxpayer dollars are intended to give every citizen equal opportunity to succeed here, so why is the money going to those who can already afford to lead a lavish life?

In Vancouver, there is an especially prevalent wealth gap. For our many aboriginal youth and those born into underprivileged families, it means additional struggles towards receiving an education. Some families that could potentially afford to send their children to private schools may still prefer to keep them in the public education system, and that’s a choice that they should be free to make.

If Clark’s funding choice is an attempt to passively bully citizens into paying more for schooling, or if it’s simple naivety, she isn’t doing her job as Premier. As a member of government, she is supposed to represent and fight for the people of this province, not merely the small group of wealthy families that can pay thousands of dollars to send their kids to esteemed facilities.

Danielle George / The Runner


Private Schools Deserve the Money

by Kyle Prince

Private schools are better, bottom line. B.C. Premier Christy Clark realized this and began giving them more government money, allocating funds meant for public schools, many of which are on the brink of closing.

What people aren’t talking about is the severe lack of education among public school teachers. While it is typical for teachers to have a Bachelor’s degree plus an additional teaching certificate, it isn’t uncommon for teachers to have a Master’s degree in their relevant field of study.

There are many benefits to attending private schools. They are traditionally harder to get into, so naturally there’s a higher level of education expected, both from the teachers and the students. There’s no overcrowding in private schools: they’re able to have a proper student-to-teacher ratio that allows for effective use of time in class.

Whether it’s due to the peer group that students are exposed to in private schools, the level of education from teachers, or simply the freedom to have more time with the instructor, a Harvard University study found that private school students tended to average higher than their public school peers in standardized tests.

Funding these sorts of results is exactly the right step to take in improving the education of children, which will better prepare them for steps they will eventually have to take later in life. Stats Canada looked into the effects of private school and found that more of them continued on to graduate high school than their public school counterparts.

“The private school advantage was more evident in post-secondary outcomes (measured at age 23)—post-secondary attendance (11.6 per cent), university attendance (17.8 per cent), postsecondary graduation (16.2 per cent), university graduation (13.9 per cent), and graduate or professional studies (8.1 per cent).”

With such clear advantages all throughout post-secondary, the benefits of private school are undeniable. There is also a wide variety of schools to choose from if you do not like the political or religious leanings of one private school. There’s always another school to match what you prefer. The one thing they have in common is that they better prepare students for academic achievement.


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