Catholic education in Saskatchewan is publically funded through provincial and municipal taxes. Our Catholic schools are not private schools requiring tuition.
There is a rich and important history of Catholic education in Canada—and Saskatchewan. Here are a few key points:
Q. Why do we have separate school systems in Canada and Saskatchewan?
A. Canada: The guarantee of minority denominational schooling rights was one of the most contentious issues in Confederation. The provision for minority denominational rights was included in the Canadian Constitution in 1867 to protect Roman Catholics, a significant religious minority in the province of Ontario. The protection of this minority was a precondition to the creation of the Canadian nation.
Saskatchewan: The role of separate schools became an issue in negotiations with the federal government over provincial status. The Saskatchewan Act of 1905 reaffirmed the status of separate schools as defined by the British North America Act. Catholic elementary schools (Grades 1 to 8) were funded in the same manner as public schools.
In 1978, The Education Act was enacted. It affirmed the provisions for denominational schooling and instituted procedures for establishing Protestant and Catholic separate school divisions and schools.
The Alberta Act and the Saskatchewan Act both provide constitutional protection to separate schools only. Public schools are not constitutionally entrenched, and are subject to regulation by the legislature.
Q. Why do we still need Catholic separate schools?
A. Catholic separate schools are as relevant today as they were in the past. They offer parents and caregivers an opportunity to have their children educated in a Christ-centered community. Many appreciate that in a Catholic school children grow in heart, mind, body and spirit. This includes a unique focus on social justice, where students learn about the Catholic tradition of reaching out to help the less fortunate.
Catholic education has become an integral part of our communities. It is important to note that during a discussion on the future of Catholic schools in Ontario, Government of Canada officials stated that eliminating fair and equitable funding for Catholic separate schools "would create a severe rent in the social fabric of the province." This statement is equally valid for the people of Saskatchewan since the loss of Catholic education here would result in significant economic turmoil and community outrage. Catholic schools are as much a gift to the world as they are to the Catholic Church.
Q. Why aren't other religious denominations allowed to establish separate schools?
A. Section 93 of The Constitution Act, 1867 provides for denominational schooling for either a Catholic of Protestant minority. The provisions of Section 93 were part of a crucial compromise that was a necessary step in building the nation of Canada. The Ordinances of the North-West Territories, 1901 and the Saskatchewan Act, 1905 affirm those denominational rights of the religious minority.
Q. Doesn't this mean that taxpayers are paying for dual systems that result in a duplication of services?
A. Catholic school divisions provide an education that is distinct from what is offered by the public school system. Specifically, there is a faith dimension in every aspect of a Catholic school system.
The perception that there is duplication between Catholic and public systems, leading to inefficiencies, is erroneous and research suggests that consolidation may produce insignificant, negligible, or non-existent savings to the public purse. In fact, the existence of dual school systems results in a "requirement of efficiency " due to the presence of the alternative school system.
Q. Who pays for Catholic separate schools?
A. Saskatchewan Learning, in 2006, reported that 22 per cent of students in the provincial system attended Catholic schools. Statistics Canada reports that 31.7 per cent of the population of Saskatchewan is Catholic, based on 2001 census data. It is reasonable then to extrapolate that the Catholic population pays 31.7 per cent of the taxes in Saskatchewan. The taxes paid by the Catholic people of Saskatchewan (both property taxes and provincial taxes) fairly pay for Catholic education.
Q. What are the financial advantages of having two school systems operating in the same community?
A. When two school systems operate in the same community, it creates and promotes efficiency within the two school systems. The presence of the alternative school division compels the board and administration of each of school division to find ways to operate with innovation and efficiency to meet the goals of their respective educational programs.
Generally, total per pupil administrative expenditures for all urban boards are not different whether incurred in a public or Catholic board.
Q. Who can designate property taxes to the separate system?
A. In areas where both public and separate school divisions exist, the education portion of the property taxes is automatically directed to the public school division unless the taxpayer indicates the taxes should be paid to the separate division.
For this reason, it is important for Catholic taxpayers to ensure that their tax notice reflects they are Catholic school supporters. Declaration of property taxes depends solely on the faith of the property owner. It is not a matter of choice, personal preference, where one works or where one's children attend or have attended school.
In the case of commercial taxes, a percentage of the taxes is designated to the separate school division based upon the percentage of Catholic shareholders (if it can be determined) or the percentage of residential taxes designated for the separate school system.
Q. Who can vote for Catholic school board trustees in municipal elections?
A. Only members of the minority faith may vote for Catholic school board trustees. Non-Catholic parents of students enrolled in Catholic schools are not entitled to vote for Catholic school trustees.
Q. Why do Catholic schools admit non-Catholic students?
A. The Catholic Church and Catholic schools have a social mandate to be open to all who wish to benefit from a faith-based education. While Catholic schools must remain grounded in the tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church, we respect the wishes of parents and caregivers who exercise their right to choose Catholic education.
As well, it is part of the ecumenical mission of the Church to provide those who choose to learn about the Catholic faith the opportunity to take part in a distinctive Catholic education. From this perspective, the key arguments for inclusion of non-Catholic students are the social mission of the Church, the Church's mission of evangelization (not to be confused with conversion), and ecumenism.
Q. How are Catholic separate school boards and schools distinct?
A. Catholic school boards and schools in Saskatchewan are committed to creating and sustaining schools that are centres of learning founded on a common faith in Jesus Christ as understood within the Catholic tradition. They also strive to create schools that encourage children to develop their individual gifts and talents in an atmosphere characterized by both freedom and the moral responsibility found in the teaching of the Catholic Church.
-Adapted from the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association FAQs
On November 9, 2015, important aspects of Catholic education in Saskatchewan are being put on trial in provincial court. Please keep publically-funded Catholic education in your prayers. Learn more (pdf)