From the equality of rights springs identity of our highest interests; you cannot subvert your neighbor's rights without striking a dangerous blow at your own. Carl Schurz

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Free Public Education For All , Only If You Can Afford It

Marion Battersby once overheard another Niagara region parent liken the $55 student fee at her local high school to the cost of a monthly Starbucks habit. 
But Ms. Battersby, an unemployed mother of six, isn’t in the habit of buying venti lattes, and doesn’t have $165 to put toward locker fees and school agendas for her three high school-aged kids.

The organization People for Education has released a survey looking into the extra fees that schools in Ontario charge students. What they found is disturbing to say the least. For instance some schools are charging extra fees for English and Science classes despite both being mandatory for graduation and are likely against the rules, with some also charging fees for ESL classes.

68% of Ontario secondary schools charge fees for courses.
73% of secondary schools charge Athletic Fees. Some as high as $1800
92% of secondary schools charge a Student Activity Fee.

According to the Ministry of Education, there are a number of “activities, programs or materials which
are ineligible for fee charges,” including:
• a registration or administration fee (including
library fee);
• a textbook fee or deposit;
• mandatory flat fees for courses leading to
graduation, other than specialized programming;
• items that are funded through the allocated
budget of a school board including, but not
limited to, core learning materials for regular
classroom programs such as computers, workbooks,
textbooks, staff development and training

In this as in so many areas of our work and school lives there are rules in place to protect us, however what use are rules that are not enforced.

“Even though the ministry says that schools aren’t supposed to be charging fees, they’re not very quick to putting a stop to it,” Ms. Battersby said.

Couple these fees with the ability for schools in higher income juristictions to fund raise at greater levels than those in lower economic areas and you have the perfect storm leading to a multi-tier education system,one where those with means receive the best education money can buy, one where only those who can afford it can participate in sports and the arts, one where only those kids whose parents have enough money can enjoy the legal enhancements to mandatory classes (yes inequity in even enshrined within the act) , one where only some can have properly supplied schools with new computers and text books and yes even with toilet paper in the restrooms , the rest of us and our children are S.O.L.

Make no mistake, this is not happening by chance, this is but one piece of a concerted strategy to create a pool of cheap labour for the ruling elite to exploit.Add in the move to lower wage, unstable employment, absent any type of benefits and pension and the increasing criminalization of everyday life, it sure looks like our kids are royally screwed. Some days I have a difficult time looking in the mirror knowing that it was my generation that allowed this to happen.

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