A new group is calling for the province to merge Saskatchewan’s public and Catholic school systems.
OneSystemSask is primarily made up of parents in Saskatoon and Regina, but has members throughout the province.
Speaking on Gormley, the group’s David Richards explained they oppose having tax dollars used to support a Catholic school system for two main reasons.
First, Richards said having a Catholic school system supported by the provincial government creates a situation where one faith is getting special treatment.
“We don’t have a shorter line for Muslims at SGI. We don’t have less wait times for people who are Jewish in our hospitals. We shouldn’t have specialized treatment for people of a certain faith in our schools,” he said.
Second, Richards said a merger would eliminate millions of dollars’ worth of duplication in things such as management and transportation costs.
“This is expensive. It costs a lot of money to run a duplicate system,” he said.
Richards pointed to a 2012 study by Ontario’s Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods that found the potential for between $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion in savings from merging systems in that province.
Applied to Saskatchewan’s population, Richards said the data would mean this province would save more than $100 million each year. Even if the benefits in Saskatchewan were only half those projected for Ontario, Richards said that’s still $50 million a year that could be spent elsewhere.
“That’s over 1,000 additional teachers. That’s keeping programs like pre-K autism supports. That’s keeping programs that school boards have just announced they’ve had to cut in light of recent budget cuts,” he said.
Discussion around the province’s parallel school systems has been ignited by a recent court decision.
A Yorkton judge ruled last week on a dispute between Catholic and public boards near the town of Theodore, determining it was unconstitutional for the province to continue paying for non-Catholic students to attend Catholic schools.
That ruling requires the province to halt payments effective June 30, 2018.
Both Premier Brad Wall and Education Minister Don Morgan have stated the Government of Saskatchewan will defend the existing arrangement of two school systems. Both said that if it’s applied as written, the ruling would mean thousands of students would have to switch from Catholic to public overnight.
In a press conference following the ruling, Morgan said the decision would mean a massive loss of funding for the Catholic system, and could potentially leave some Catholic schools sitting half empty while nearby public facilities were bursting at the seams with new students.