One province, one school system.
It's time to unify our province around a single, secular school system that encompasses a wide diversity of backgrounds and beliefs.
What is the current model of education in Saskatchewan? How is one system different?
Saskatchewan currently funds two systems of education - a separate (Roman Catholic) and a public system. The school systems are broken into school divisions, each with a locally an elected board of trustees. All schools, no matter which system they belong to, are mandated by the government to meet certain curriculum and quality standards.
We advocate a move to one single system, which could be made up of several regional school divisions that reflect local voice.
Uniting into one single system does not require amalgamation of school divisions. Instead, it eliminates the wasteful taxpayer spending that's currently going into the overhead and management costs required to run both a Catholic division and a public division in the same region.
What's the benefit of having one school system?
A single, secular school system makes sense from an economic, academic and inclusion perspective.
In terms of economics, operating both the separate and public school systems requires us to double up on many overhead and administration costs. Right now too much time and money is spent paying for administrators at the top instead of supporting students in the classroom, where it's needed most.
With one single school system we could keep local school divisions but eliminate the added costs of running two systems in the same region. Considering all the cuts to education budgets, it's hard to ignore this unsustainable and wasteful spending.
Some people argue that separate schools practice discriminatory policies by favouring Catholic teachers and restricting student learning to topics that align favourably with Catholic teachings. Moving to a single, secular system would open the door for all students to be exposed to a diversity of backgrounds, beliefs and world religions, not just the Catholic faith.
How would we move to one school system? How would this even work?
Making the legal change to one school system is actually relatively simple. The provincial government can amend the legal requirement for a separate school system at any time, much like Newfoundland and Quebec did in the 1990s.
Practically speaking, there’s no question the initial transition to a single system would be a challenge for school administrators working on the ground. But in the light of the recent court ruling on funding for non-Catholic students, the alternative could mean separate schools sitting half empty while public schools are bursting at the seams.
In one, unified school system students will continue to attend the very same schools with the same teachers - just without a Catholic-only religion class or Catholic-only symbols on the walls.
What about religious education?
Religious education is important and families have a right to raise their children according to their religious and cultural beliefs. But there are many ways to teach and practice religion, both inside and outside of schools, that are respectful to all beliefs.
A secular school system does not mean the end of religious education. A single, secular system would open the door for all children to learn about a diversity of beliefs and world religions, including (but not limited to) the Catholic faith.
So what is stopping us from moving to one single, secular school system?
There are only three provinces that still fund denominational education (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario). So what’s stopping Saskatchewan from making change?
A lot of it comes down to politics. Every government since 1905 has invested in the status quo, and this reluctance to “rock the boat” has simply become unsustainable. It’s true that a lot money has been spent on maintaining the two systems, but that’s not a good reason to keep pouring money into an outdated model instead of making the changes to benefit our children in the long-term.
It's time for Saskatchewan to join the majority of provinces and come together to form one united, secular school system.