TORONTO, ON--(Marketwired - January 10, 2017) - Australia's government funding of independent and religious schools, which is adjusted based on the socioeconomic status of the communities in which students live, offers more school choice for parents, particularly lower-income families, finds a new study by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank.
"Parents choosing independent schools across Canada -- even in provinces where partial government funding is provided -- face financial barriers since they have to pay not only their regular taxes, but also a portion of their children's tuition costs. This is particularly difficult for lower-income families whose financial resources are limited," said Deani Van Pelt, director of the Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education at the Fraser Institute.
The new study, Regulation and Funding of Independent Schools: Lessons from Australia, examines that country's education system and highlights its unique funding model for non-government (independent and religious) schools.
In Australia, government funding of independent schools varies between 20 and 90 per cent per student (for operating expenses) depending on the average income of the neighbourhood in which the student lives.
"This means that students from poor areas can have as much as 90 per cent of their tuition at independent schools covered by government," explained Van Pelt.
In Canada, by comparison, provincial governments partially fund independent schools in five provinces -- British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec -- with the range of funding between 35 and 70 per cent, though most of the funding occurs at the 50 per cent level.
None of the provinces that provide funding for independent schools adjusts the funding for the economic status of communities or individual families. That can and most likely does leave independent schools out of reach for low-income families.
"With more and more Canadian parents choosing independent schools for their children, policymakers across Canada should consider alternative funding models that make independent schools more affordable for families and take into account their ability to pay," Van Pelt said.
Deani Van Pelt, Director of the Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education
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The Fraser Institute is an independent Canadian public policy research and educational organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal and ties to a global network of think-tanks in 87 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for Canadians, their families and future generations by studying, measuring and broadly communicating the effects of government policies, entrepreneurship and choice on their well-being. To protect the Institute's independence, it does not accept grants from governments or contracts for research. Visit www.fraserinstitute.org