Jewish school funding: the plot thickens

01.19.05

Charest is angrily denying allegations that his government’s decision to increase funding to Jewish day schools was motivated by fundraising for the Liberals by the Jewish community:

Far from a last-minute decision made behind closed doors, Charest said, allowing Jewish day schools to form an association with public school boards and boost their secular funding is an idea that has been in the works for more than 10 years.

The premier angrily denied reports the decision was related to financial contributions to the Quebec Liberal Party by members of the Jewish community.

“There is absolutely no link between political financing and the decision taken by the government,” Charest said at a late- afternoon news conference. “If some people want to piece together events to say there is an appearance, they can always try to do that, but I am here to say clearly that’s not the case.”

Sounds liek a standard-issue denial. But there’s much more than simple political criticizing going on here.

First of all, the decision had initially been approved by two public schoolboards, who signed on:

And Reid was acting with the approval of the two school boards involved, the Lester B. Pearson School Board and the Commission Scolaire Marguerite Bourgeoys, which voted in favour of the deals at their own meetings and passed the requests up the line, Charest said.

Both schoolboards would also get additional funding for participating. But little attention is being paid to that.

Also, there’s a clear double-standard at play, since Greek schools in Montreal are already 100% funded:

Charest said that despite criticism the government is creating a precedent, the Greek community already has associations with school boards that entitle its schools to more funding. The Liberals had decided to give private Jewish schools associated status as early as 1994 but lost power to the PQ, which did not implement it.

[ . . . ]

[Former PQ education minister Pauline] Marois added that in the nine years the PQ was in power, the government refused just such a request from Jewish leaders for reasons of fairness and because the government wanted to get away from the religious aspects of education as part of the transformation from religious school boards to linguistic ones.

“My biggest fear is that this has the reverse effect sought by the Jewish community and by the minister, that it raises the objections we see today and it leads to intolerance between one group and another,” Marois said.

“The minister is creating a climate of tension, insecurity, and is not acting in the interests of all.”

Marois admitted, however, that despite her criticism of the deal with Jewish private schools, the PQ did nothing to reverse the same associated status the Greek schools enjoyed when the PQ was in power.

So funding Greek schools does not create a “climate of tension”, but funding Jewish schools does. That’s crystal clear, I suppose.

Marois even went so far as to suggest that the Jewish schools should refuse to sign on for the plan, ostensibly to avoid being criticized by the likes of her party.

Anyone notice a pattern here? When people “suspect” the Jews, it’s beacuse we brought it on ourselves by doing things that “create a climate of tension”. Marois’ comments were a bit more subtle than Parizeau’s infamous “money and the ethnic vote” speech… but not much.

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