Private religious education should not be favoured in public funding

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In 2019, public secular education is no less important nor less valid than private Christian education. Provincial government funding must reflect this.

In Alberta, a five per cent cut in the budget for advanced education from the United Conservative (UCP) government hit all but five private post-secondary institutions in the province. Four of the five schools exempt from cuts are Christian universities, while the fifth, Concordia University of Edmonton, is a former faith-based institution.

Despite statements from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s office arguing the contrary, this funding allocation indicates a bias toward private Christian education.

From Andrew Scheer’s anti-university flyers to Doug Ford’s OSAP cuts, post-secondary education has taken a serious licking from Conservative politicians over the last few months. The Alberta budget slashes feel like another slight in this onslaught of Conservative cuts to public higher education. 

But Christian schools shouldn’t be cut any slack that isn’t afforded to public secular universities. 

Provincial governments’ priorities shouldn’t be to fund religious institutions that teach specific subjective values, or which host sometimes-exclusionary mandates, over public institutions. 

While not all Christian post-secondary institutions preach the same morals, favouring private Christian universities and colleges could mean endorsing the teachings of schools like Trinity Western University, which until 2017 forbade students from having sex outside of heterosexual marriage. 

Secular post-secondary institutions offer consistent educations and wider demographics of students. They deserve support from provincial governments just as much as schools with religious roots.

This allocation also unfairly advantages already-privileged identity groups. Students at public institutions are more frequently ethnic or religious minorities than those at Christian schools. By cutting secular public schools’ budgets while protecting predominantly Christian universities, the Albertan government shows which demographic of students they’re more willing to support. 

In 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Committee stated that Ontario's policy of fully funding the Roman Catholic school board without fully funding other religious school boards was discriminatory. Provinces favouring private Christian universities through their funding allocation have the same effect.

The post-secondary budget cuts in Alberta reflect a provincial government using taxpayers’ money to inequitably shape the province’s higher education system, favouring certain demographics over others. 

Whether or not religious education in Canada should receive government funding is up for debate, but one thing is certain: private Christian universities don’t deserve more government funding than other educational institutions.

—Journal Editorial Board

 

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