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Jewish school funding plan pulled

Jean Charest caved under pressure and retreated from his plan to increase subsidies to Jewish schools:

After discussing the matter with his cabinet for the first time, Charest acknowledged that the plan was doomed to fail without the backing of the population.

[ . . . ]

“With the Marguerite Bourgeoys school board not wanting to pursue this and with the very strong reaction within the population of Quebec, this initiative is not one that’s going to be able to succeed,” Charest said.

If all 15 schools had signed on, the program would have cost $10 million a year. The seven schools that signed agreements will still get a portion of that total for the remainder of the school year before the program is abolished. Charest has authorized Reid and Citizens Relations and Immigration Minister Michelle Courchesne to work with the school boards and cultural communities to find an alternative.

Worse than a leader people disagree with is a spineless leader. Charest will likely find that retreat with his tail between his legs is much more politically costly than an unpopular plan in the first place.

Ironically, there’s no public outcry against the Greek schools who receive this funding model. Greeks, I suppose, are less politically objectionable than Jews.

At least one prominent person has the courage to tell it like it is:

Marcus Tabachnick, chairperson of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, said the project should have continued.

Stressing that it was his personal opinion and not necessarily that of the board, Tabachnick said the controversy hinted of anti-Semitism.

He said he’s been asked by at least one reporter for the origin of his last name and his religion.

“I’m disappointed,” Tabachnick said. “I think in the last few days we’ve seen the ugliest side of Quebec.”

Unfortunately, his is one of the only voices making that argument. A Leger poll suggested that 90% of the population of Quebec was against the initiative.

At times like this, I’m reminded of something I’ve said before: If an opinion poll was held in Quebec, asking people if the Jews should pay more tax than everyone else, the initiative would overwhelmingly be favoured.

I guess this proves that point.

Update: Judging by Tommy Schnurmacher’s tirade on the subject, he agrees with me… and then some. Not that I’m too surprised.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Josh 01.20.05, 9:04 PM

    No one has been able to tell me if this plan was exclusively about subsidizing Jewish private schools (with certain conditions), or ALL private schools who reach some standard.

  • Puck 01.20.05, 10:03 PM

    It was specifically Jewish day schools. The Greek schools were moved to 100% funding as a language ploy to encourage french.

    The fact remains that we should not be funding private schools at all. Especially one that endorses a particular religion. The reason we do is to ensure there are atleast some standards so that these private schools don’t produce illiterate morons.

    I think the question that should be asked Tabachnick is if he went to a jewish day school?

  • bill 01.21.05, 3:34 AM

    Perhaps Federation CJA should stop trying to use its political muscle to achieve preferential treatment and start pushing for intitatives that enhance multiculturalism instead of creating social tensions.

  • angua 01.21.05, 3:59 PM

    So connecting Jewish schools to public school boards, so that curriculum is standard with other local schools does not enhance multiculturalism. But segregating Jewish schools and separating them from the local community does?

  • DaninVan 01.21.05, 4:18 PM

    I’m re-posting my comment from a few days ago:
    “The criteria should be ‘public’ as in open to everyone within the school’s boundary, and free, vs ‘private’ as in a student needs to apply and be accepted as well as pay a tuition fee. As all Taxpayers (normally) are assessed for school costs, having to pay tuition to attend Private schools is what should trigger the Gov’t subsidy. The Taxpayer is otherwise being double taxed, so to speak.
    Gov’t also gets to call the shots on basic curriculum for their contribution (and because they need to know just what the hell IS being taught…)”

    I need to emphasize “Basic curriculum” as there appears to be some misunderstanding as to how that affects the cultural content. It doesn’t. Every citizen of Canada needs to be able to speak and write clearly in at least one and preferrably both of our Official Languages. Learning Algebra or Biology in English/French won’t affect one’s standing in the Greek, Ethiopean, or Jewish communities. Education is a Provincial responsibility and every Prov. Gov’t has an obligation to ensure that ALL its students receive a comprehensive education. Hence the Gov’t’s right to insist on standards. Multiculturism (or Multiculturealism if you prefer) ISN’T a Provincial responsibility!

  • bill 01.22.05, 10:20 PM

    Between forcing Barak down Concordia’s throat and attempting to force private religious school funding down the throats of the Quebec public, the current leadership of Federation CJA has done nothing to enhance the social peace or the image of the Jewish community as a partner in Quebec society. That we have people who can’t see farther than their own noses speaking on behalf of the Jewish community as a whole is truly sad.

  • DaninVan 01.22.05, 10:51 PM

    Oh, so what you’re saying, Bill, is that the Quebec Gov’t should withdraw all funding to Catholic schools, eh?

  • bill 01.23.05, 2:11 AM

    Actually, the Quebec government has done so. The school boards are structured by linguistic group and no longer by religous affiliation. Of course, this begs the question whether Jewish schools couldn’t thus be labeled “Hebrew” schools and Muslim schools labeled “Arabic” schools or some such nonesense. I feel that state funding of religious schools is unacceptable across the board. But in the alternative, funding should be accross the board and not for specific groups. It is equity, fairness and an effort not to discriminate that leads to social peace. The way this whole issue was handled was a mess. But I would blame not only Rerid and Charest for this, ut the leadership of the CJA who are so short-sighted they are utterly unable to see what is good for Jews in Quebec. They absolutely destroyed any sympathy that had arisen from the Talmud Torah incident. Bright.

  • DaninVan 01.23.05, 5:01 AM

    Ok, I get your point. I don’t entirely agree with you though. The Province is obligated to fund education to every child. How that’s delivered really is what’s at issue. As long as a private institution is prepared to meet Provincial currriculum requirements, it shouldn’t matter what umbrella they teach under. Parents that want a religious element to their kid’s education are denied that in Public schools so are forced to establish alternate schooling. Absolutely no reason for the Gov’t to withold the money that they would need to spend on those kids if they went the public school route. Remember, the parents have payed school taxes into the Public school pot.
    I know it’s not the point, but I’d put the education received by the kids at the Jewish schools up against any dished up by the Public school system (and I’m guessing blind; I live out in B.C.)

  • bill 01.24.05, 10:21 AM

    Not the main point I was trying to make, but in response…

    First, nobody criticised the level of education at Jewish private schools in Quebec. That’s a non-issue.

    On the private/public debate, I heartily disagree with you. At a time when public schools are dramatically underfunded, it makes a huge difference if the government is willing to give tax rebates if the kids go to private schools. Say private school tuition is $10,000 and the government rebates $5 000. That $5 000 comes out of the budget of public school boards. Fair for the parents of the kid, why not? Now they only have to cough up another $5 000. Problem is that alot of people haven’t got an extra $5000 per kid per year to pay.

    So the level of eduation at the public school suffers. Access to quality education is restricted to those who can afford it and kids whose parents aren’t wealthy are condemned to inferior educations.

    Interestingly, Federation CJA director Bram Freedman was quoted in the Canadian Jewish News suggesting that Jewish private schools maintain their tuition rates despite the 100% government funding (the article seems to have mysteriously dissapeared from the CJN website after the announcement that the plan would not be adapted.

    So the extra money gets taken out of the public school system while one in eight Jews live in poverty in Canada (http://www.cjnews.com/viewarticle.asp?id=5295) – let alone the many others living in poverty in Canada – and this money isn’t even going toward making Jewish private schools accessible for finacially needy Jews?

    I know, there are financial aid programs, scholarships, etc. But the point is that quality public education for everyone is a Canadian (and Quebec) value. Is a program of tuition rebates to private schools the way to achieve that goal?

  • Ikram 01.24.05, 2:15 PM

    Away for a while and I miss a great blog topic! First the Quebec government adopts my “Jewish arrival Day” recommendation and agrees to fully fund Jewish schools so long as they commit to a level of state control. Then, perhaps becuase I was not here to push the case, they cave!

    (Note that Alberta already funds Hebrew language schools in Edmonton, as well as an Arabic language school in Calgary)

    More seriously, this would have been a great second best solution (the best solution would be prohibiting religious schools — but that’s not possible). State funding means state control, which means the gvt can interfere in Jewish schools to ensure that the best interest of future (Jewish) Canadian and Quebec citizens is being looked after.

    And with state control, perhaps fewer graduates of the excellent Hebrew language curriculum will wind up being paranoiacs, terrified of the ill-intent of the gentile world? Sari?

  • segacs 01.24.05, 2:53 PM

    So let’s see… Ikram thinks I’m a “paranoiac”, Bill thinks the folks at Federation CJA are a bunch of wankers, and Puck thinks private funding should be at 0% … except for those nice Greek people who are happily learning French.

    Not sure where to go with this, to tell the truth. Ikram, the schools would have been maintaining their current level of state control. They already follow the government curriculum for the secular program. That wouldn’t have changed. They only would have participated in an “exchange” program with a couple of the public boards, in order to qualify for the funding. Note that the public boards would have received extra dollars for this too. Aside from that, the curriculum – already “state controlled” into the ground – wouldn’t have changed. Plus, the government wasn’t going to fully fund the schools – only fully fund the secular side.

    Which brings me to my next point. Bill, the schools were planning on maintaining their current tuition level, and using the added funds to improve the schools’ facilities. Financial aid is already widely available and disseminated so that any parent who wants to send their kids to Jewish schools can do so, regardless of financial situation. Much of the money for this aid comes from the folks at Federation CJA that you love to hate, Bill.

    Ultimately, it comes down to this: Despite the introduction of linguistic schoolboards, parents in the public system still have the option of Catholic religious classes, Protestant religious classes, or generic “moral education” for all others. But for parents who want their kids to have a Jewish education, the public system doesn’t offer that. That’s where the private system comes in. Dan is correct that the government would be spending money on these kids regardless… but only as far as their secular education goes. The religious portion of the education is 100% funded by the parents.

    Hope that clears a few things up.

  • Ikram 01.24.05, 9:48 PM

    Thanks for the info Sari. I guess my proposal has not yet been adopted by the Charest government.

    I’d love to hear what a bona fide graduate of the Quebec Jewish school system thinks of the aborted Ried proposal. Apart from how this whole shebang is evidence of Mitsou’s deep-seated anti-semitism, is full gvt funding of Jewish schools a good idea?

    And could it be that the popular distaste of the Ried proposal is not motivated solely by a personal hatred of Sari, but also by Quebeckers feelings of non-sectarianism? Or is it majoritarianism? Would Quebeckers’ reaction have been similar if only Muslims schools had been offerred full funding? (Quebec is peculiarly the only province where a majority of the pop thinks headscarves should be banned in schools).

    Is there any resemblance between this kerfuffle and Ontarians’ reaction to binding Islamic (sharia) tribunals? Are your views on those tribunals different now?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  • segacs 01.24.05, 10:02 PM

    I’d love to hear what a bona fide graduate of the Quebec Jewish school system thinks of the aborted Ried proposal.

    What, am I not bona fide enough for you?

  • Ikram 01.24.05, 10:19 PM

    I have every confidence in your bona fides. Come on, tell us what you really think.

  • angua 01.25.05, 4:19 PM

    Ikram, I’ve lived in Quebec and spoken to Quebecers. I have no doubt that the reaction would have been the same in the case of Muslim schools (equally stupid and bigoted, in other words). However, I suspect that there would not have been this reaction if the schools in question were, say, Vietnamese or Haitian. In my experience, minority French-speakers like the Haitians or even allophones like Greeks or Italians are much better tolerated than Jews, who are perceived Anglo, on top of their other multitudes of sins.

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