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New Liberal government puts boot to tax credits for tuition-paying parents
Retroactive move troubling independent schools
Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill
TORONTO, Ontario - Tax credits for tuition fees paid to independent schools will be scrapped retro-actively to January 1, 2003 if legislation recently introduced in the Provincial Parliament is adopted. The tax credit would have given those who pay both school tuition fees and provincial education taxes back on the 2003 tax return. As promised in their election campaign, the Liberals axed the credits during their first day in the legislature since the election.
The provincial Liberal Party all along opposed the concept of former Conservative Premier Ernie Eves, and also made it a campaign issue during the summer election. The Liberals say they are “committed to the public education system” but supported the request for recognition in previous decades when they continuously were in opposition to Conservative governments. Eves’ Conser-vative predecessor Harris particularly angered the teachers’ union and other stakeholders in the public school system of whom some strongly campagned against the Conservatives in the recent election.
Ontario again will be the only remaining province in Canada which does not support independent education one way or other. Only in recent decades, the province under a Conservative government dropped its opposition to the Roman Catholic schools (grade 10 and over) which now are fully funded. Jewish and Christian schools advocate parental choice in education, free of penalties for dissenting choices.
Tuition and taxes
The non-equality in education has been a source of frustration for Christian School supporters who pay upwards of $6,000 a year per family in tuition costs and also through property and general taxes shoulder the burden of the public education system. The independent schools also pay for capital costs and transportation. There is increasing concern that Christian education has gone out of reach for traditional families who rely on one income. The teachers earn salaries well below those of the public system.
A significant part of the Dutch Canadian community in Ontario supports either independent or Roman Catholic education. Independent education supporters saw the tax credit plan (it was to rise from the initial ten procent to fifty) as recognition of their schools and as a stepping stone to democracy in education.
Principal John Lunshof of the St. Thomas Christian Academy calls the Liberal government move discrimination against parents who send their children to ‘private’ schools. The Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS), an umbrella organization of schools with about 14,000 students, is troubled by the government’s action for several reasons. It particularly cites the lack of stated reasons for the legislation, the retroactive part to January 1, 2003 when the new government was not even elected, and the U.N.1999 criticism of the province’s discriminatory education policy. According to the OACS, the government has reinstituted “institutional discrimination.” A request for a court injunction against the legislation was denied although the judge ruled that the litigants had a case. It is thought that the government move is a pay-off to a public school stake holder.