Second City, Second Metro: Ottawa Separate School Board – “the principal of equal opportunity is being violated.”

The Roman Catholic Separate School Board of Ottawa had one thing in mind when its submissions were made to the Jones Commission: money. Although the Board was pleased with what it was able to accomplish in Catholic education with the funds it had been allotted, the 70% difference in per-pupil funding vis-a-vis the Public School Board did not sit right.

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There is a relationship between the amount of money spent for schools and the quality of schools provided. A minimum budget will provide a minimum standard of classrooms, teachers, supplies and equipment. The Ottawa Separate School Board has been able to provide the basic essentials, but cannot offer the additional educational advantages. There are two standards of education in the review area because the principle of equal opportunity is being violated.

The limited financial ability of the Board keeps the expenditure on basic special services at a minimum and prohibits the expansion of these courses. Elementary students are equally divided between the two Boards of Ottawa but do not receive equal opportunity with respect to special services in guidance, psychology, orthopaedic, diagnostic and remedial teaching, music and art classes, etc. While the Public School Board offers all the above classes, the Separate School Board can only do so in a limited manner. However, the Board does have two psychologists and does given special attention to slow learners.

The disparity in resources between the two Boards is extreme as is the per public expenditure variation. Ottawa Separate Schools presently receive 70.6% less per pupil. Between 1951 and 1963 the relative spending gap between the two systems narrowed by the absolute gap widened. This absolute gap will narrow under the Tax Foundation Plan but will not disappear.

As there is an important correlation between gross per pupil expenditure and the standard of education provided, it is reasonable to conclude that the Separate School standard of education is lower than that of the Public School; although other things

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influence the attractiveness of academic employment, adequate financial inducements are necessary. Even if a good starting salary is offered, a low ceiling is a decided handicap when hiring. The Public School Board with a salary ceiling of $8,200. has a definite competitive advantage over the Separate School Board with a salary ceiling of $6,100. Further, the greater increases to Separate School salaries between 1952 and 1963 failed to present a widening of the absolute margin between the two systems. There is no doubt that Separate School salaries must be raised if the Board wishes to prevent deterioration in the quality of its staff and match the superior offers of the Public School Board.

The Report on Research Findings does not show debenture debt charges between 1951 and 1963 by school systems but shows that 1963 per pupil expenditure for loans and interest represent 15.8% and 13.1% of gross expenditures in the Separate and Public Elementary systems respectively. A rising school debt and heavy taxes can cause Separate School supporters to support a public system and restricts the expenditure of the debtor.

A further omission in the Report concerning future classroom and need school attendance projections will delay Separate School decisions on consolidation of administrative units.

In matters of educational finance, we have failed fully to meet the development of the modern world. Mutual trust must be developed and legislative changes implemented to guarantee equal educational opportunity for supporters of both systems. Originally legislated to be on par with public schools, the Separate Schools have always been financially penalized, thus resulting in a divergent standard of education. By legislation, a Roman Catholic may support Separate Schools or the Public Schools if his children attend them, however, a non-Catholic cannot support the Separate Schools even if his children are enrolled in this system. Further, the rating of

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corporation assessments to Separate Schools in proportion to the number of shares held by the Roman Catholics is unworkable; the Ontario Foundation Tax Plan is only a partial remedy.

Centralization of Separate School administration in the review area will serve no useful purpose in view of the present financial burden and lower level of education provided by this system. Dr. Eric Hanson, Dean of the Graduate School of the University of Alberta recommends substantial Federal-Provincial participation as a means of reducing education costs to 5% or 10% of the municipal budget. Meanwhile, no lasting solution will be found until the financial inequities between the two systems are resolved.

By constitution, we have a separate school system. Further, it is a necessity that all children have equal educational opportunities. However, evidence suggests a widely divergent standard of education between the two elementary systems attributable mainly to lower relative return from municipal taxation. It is therefore recommended -
a) that the Federal and Provincial governments assume greater
financial responsibility for education;
b) that all taxes for school purposes be legislated for distribution
to Separate and Public Schools on a per capita basis;
c) that legislation be passed to permit non-Catholics with children
in Separate Schools to support the separate system.



The submission was presented by Mr. Roland Beriault, Chairman of the Board, Mr. Frank Gilhooly, Member of the Board, Mr. R. Groulx, Board Administrator and Mr. L. Desjardins, Mr. Gordon Boreham, Mr. Pierre Mercier, Mr. D. Pharand and Mr. L. Boudreau.

The lack of finances has prevented the Separate School Board from offering the same high standard of educational services

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offered by the Public School Board. This results from the disparity in resources between the two systems, caused primarily by the existing provincial grant system.

It was explained that the Ontario Foundation Tax Plan 1964, provides for a basic tax relief grant which benefits both systems equally. There is also an assimilation grant which favours the progressive board incurring a large capital debt through a rapidly expanding school system. The Board is receiving more from an equalization grant (based on assessment per classroom) than the Public School Board. However, the greatest disparity lies in the corporate tax adjustment grant which (since 1963) is calculated on all Ottawa corporation assessments less the separate school assessment and multiplied by the annual public school rate. Based on this figure, the Board receives only part of the corporation assessment. The Robarts plan (undergoing a five year trial) will divide corporation assessment for school purposes on the same ratio as public and separate school assessment bears to total residential and farm assessment. This is a partial remedy to the inequity in view of the almost unworkable provision permitting a corporation to rate all or part of its land and business assessments for separate schools up to the portion of total stock held by Catholic shareholders. However, the gains from the corporate tax assessment will raise the classroom assessment and lower the Board's equalization grants.

Non-Catholic ratepayers' children attending separate schools represent about 5 percent of total enrolment; by law their parents cannot support the separate school system as is also the case with children of mixed marriages where the father is Protestant. Similarly, taxes from public utilities such as the Canadian National Railways, Canadian Pacific Railways, etc. and from property owned by a Catholic but rented by the Federal government automatically go to the public school system; in other cases of renting, the disposition of taxes is decided by the tenant. These practices cause further

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loss of revenue to the Board. Although these inequities have been the subject of many representations to provincial authorities, they have not been corrected.

For a number of years, separate school supporters have paid around $75.00 more annually in taxes for school purposes than public school supporters. In spite of this, it is possible that the present educational standard has been maintained only by going deeper into debt than the public school system. A rising school debt and prospective high taxes may even cause separate school supporters to switch to the public school system.

With present grants and assessment, the Board stated that any expansion of its administrative area would prove to be too much of a financial burden, although the extent of that burden would depend on the cost of increasing new area services to bring them up to Ottawa's standard. It was agreed unofficially, however, that if the financial inequities were resolved, a larger administrative area would be in the interests of separate school education, since the educational standards in suburban and rural schools would be raised to that of the Ottawa separate schools; a standard level of education throughout the entire area was generally favoured although again the financial aspect would be all important.

It was stated that only by some more basic reallocation of public funds will the equalizing of educational opportunity be a reality.


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