Chair of Waterloo public board calls for one school system
'It’s a really outdated notion to divide kids by creed'
Ted Martin, the chair of the Waterloo Region District School Board, says he would like to see public education in Ontario be placed under one system.
On Wednesday, Martin tweeted out a link to an opinion piece from a news website advocating the idea.
“I think it is important to make clear that this is my personal opinion, it’s not the board’s opinion,” Martin told CBC News.
“It’s a really outdated notion to divide kids by creed,” he added. ”We consider ourselves a multicultural province, a multicultural society.”
Martin added the idea would also make sense from a financial standpoint.
“We’d need fewer directors of education, we’d probably need fewer superintendents of education, fewer CFO’s,” said Martin. “We’d also need less busing. Transportation consumes a huge amount of our budget, and yet it isn’t really adding directly to the children’s education.”
But Martin says he would also want to make sure religious education could be offered through a unified system.
“I think that you could incorporate religions within one system, but I wouldn’t want it to be divided by school,” said Martin. “I would want within the same school, you could accommodate classes for different religions.”
The idea of merging the public and Catholic school boards into one is featured prominently in the Green Party of Ontario's election platform. Mike Schreiner, the party’s leader, believes the province could save more than a $1 billion a year by doing so.
But the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats have no plans for such a dramatic change.
Wayne Buchholtz, the chair of the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, says he’s skeptical whether a merger would actually save any money.
“You’re still going to have the same amount of kids, and you’re still going to have the same amount of funding,” said Buchholtz. “That’s not going to change, whether you have one school system or two school systems or the four that we have at the present time.”
“I really don’t know where they think they’re going to find the savings,” he added.
Merging the school boards would trigger a constitutional debate, as the right to public funding for Catholic schools has been enshrined in the province's constitution.