We have known for some time that Roman Catholic interests have lobbied governments and gone to great lengths to put the best face on their schools, but perhaps it is time to share a bit of this game with readers.
It appears that a great deal of time and effort is directed by Roman Catholic officials to have separate boards across the province carry out a planned program of lobbying. Separate boards are encouraged to invite area MPPs to meet and discuss local education issues. Sometimes this is at a large formal meeting or sometimes just at a small local gathering.
Last Fall, in a briefing memorandum, the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board highlighted concerns about: Education Act amendments proposed in the government’s Bill 177; continued support for Catholic education in Ontario; funding for special education; implementation of Ontario’s full-day kindergarten system; busing costs; and the primary class size cap. The briefing notes are from www.dpcdsb.org.
The board’s director of education, John Kostoff, said that: “Dialogue sessions such as this help promote a greater understanding of our issues and perspectives and allow for our elected MPPs to better represent us at the provincial table.”
A newspaper report of the meeting indicated that then Minister of Education, Kathleen Wynne, was unwilling to share meeting details because the deliberations were confidential while acknowledging that the concerns of the trustees have been heard.
She did, however, offer a little insight on the government’s position on a few issues. “Certainly in terms of the continued support for Catholic education, we’ve been very clear as a government we’re going to continue to support Catholic education. It’s part of the publicly-funded system and we see it as very much an integral part.”
A planned program
The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) ensures that local boards have the resources and encouragement to carry out effective lobbying strategies.
“From the Desk of Paula Peroni – June 2009” found at www.ocsta.on.ca/page5422538.aspx , she reminded separate board members that “Last Fall the Association distributed lobbying resource packages to every board and requested that each board take steps to meet and establish relationships with their local MPPs and MPs.”
And following this “…to please come prepared to report on your board’s lobbying efforts at our 2009 Regional Meetings. The relationships you establish with our legislators will not only help to raise the profile and promote the benefit of Catholic education to a very influential audience, but will at the same time help to protect our vibrant system.”
As well as lobbying the politicians, OCSTA also wants to lobby the general public. You see some of the results in local newspapers. Quoted from the website, it reads:
“On May 29, OCSTA was part of the Catholic education community launch of the FACE (Friends and Advocates for Catholic Education) project. Like the Our Catholic Schools project we introduced a few years ago, this is a project designed to engage our school communities and partners in support of a strong and vibrant publicly funded Catholic school system in Ontario.
“Over 150 representatives from almost every school board community in the province attended the event to gain a better understanding of the engagement activities being planned. Our objective is to assist boards in creating stronger ties in their communities for the benefit of the students in our Catholic schools.
“I’d like to thank the FACE Project Co-ordinator, Lou Rocha, for doing such an excellent job of coordinating this event and the work of FACE. More details on project activities will be shared in the months ahead and definitely at the regional orientation sessions that are currently being planned under the FACE project.”
Why is it necessary?
It is our belief that if there were no lobbying by the Roman Catholic separate school interests, the government would be more inclined to listen to us, do the right thing, and treat everyone equally.
It is to the credit of the lobbyists that this hasn’t been the case. There is no legitimate reason for the separate system to receive tax dollars to operate it, so the lobbyists do their job, and do it effectively.
We, the public, are not sufficiently organized to do likewise