Ontario Greens want Catholic, public schools to merge

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KITCHENER — The Green party is calling for the merger of the Catholic and public school boards to create a more fiscally responsible education system in the province.

Party leader Mike Schreiner wants a public commission to study the best way of amalgamating the separate and public systems into one French and English organization.

Schreiner was in Waterloo Region Wednesday supporting Kitchener-Waterloo Green party candidate Stacey Danckert. The pair spoke to the media from Danckert’s backyard.

Ontario is the only province that funds one religious school system at the exclusion of all others and it needs to stop, Schreiner said.

“Is it fair that public dollars go to an organization that excludes two-thirds of the eligible teachers of being hired based on religion?” he said. “Where else in our society would we allow that?”

Instead, all three “old” parties at Queen’s Park refuse to talk about the contentious issue and choose to “slam the door on even having a conversation about this.”

“It’s irresponsible on the part of the premier,” Schreiner said.

Schreiner said he believes many Ontarians support merging of boards.

Schreiner noted the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario held its annual meeting in Toronto this week and passed a motion suggesting “public education in Ontario be limited to secular schools.”

It’s time to show leadership on this issue, he said.

“Part of being a leader is to have the courage to stand up and put the public interest ahead of special interest and good public policy ahead of political expediency,” Schreiner said.

Liberal candidate Eric Davis said merging of the Catholic and public board “is not something we are looking at it.” Instead, the Liberal platform is concentrating on “protecting the gains we have made in education while making sure that we balance the budget by 2017-2018,” Davis said.

NDP candidate Catherine Fife said her party supports using education dollars more efficiently but does not support amalgamating the Catholic and public boards.

“We have advocated at the provincial level that there’s greater co-operation between Catholic and public school boards, on the capital front, on the operational front … But is it worth breaking down the entire system, especially when education is so fragile right now?” she said.

“We are committed to using tax dollars more efficiently throughout the public education system but we don’t want to destabilize the education system at this point in time.”

Conservative candidate Tracey Weiler said her commitment and that of her party is to the publicly funded education system that exists today.

“It (amalgamation) is not something we are considering,” she said.

Weiler added she has found through canvassing that constituents are not demanding one education system, but rather are concerned with what they see as Liberal government overspending.