Premier Bill Davis set Catholic school funding on a new course after much lobbying by advocates such as Cardinal Gerald Emmett Carter, right.

Happy birthday! Full funding 35 years old

By  Mike Mastromatteo, The Catholic Register
  • May 2, 2020

Thirty-five years ago, in July 1985, Catholic education in Ontario took a major step forward when Bill 30 was passed by the Ontario Legislature, granting full public funding to Catholic schools through Grade 13. The battle for equal funding with the public boards was a long one, finally won when Premier Bill Davis, who had rejected the idea in 1971, announced the change in policy in June 1984. Here’s The Catholic Register’s report from its June 23, 1984 edition:


In a surprising reversal of its long-standing education policy, the Ontario government announced June 12 that it will grant Roman Catholic schools equality of status and funding with the public school system to the end of Grade 13.

Just days earlier, Education Minister Dr. Bette Stephenson confirmed that the government was considering increasing grants to separate school students in Grades 9 and 10, but she said the funding of Catholic private high schools, Grades 11 to 13, was not being considered. The government’s sudden policy announcement took Catholic educators and trustees by surprise.

“There is no question that we’re delighted with the government’s announcement,” said Metropolitan Separate School Board (MSSB) chairman Edward McMahon, “although I’m surprised it came this way.”

McMahon said the board will examine the implications of the government’s announced changes and how they affect Catholic secondary schools. He said the hiring of some non-Catholic teachers and the admission of non-Catholic students will not result in a loss of autonomy for Catholic secondary schools. “This is one heck of a step forward,” McMahon said, “but it came about 117 years late.”

Chris Asseff, executive director of the Ontario Separate School Trustees’ Association (OSSTA), said the government’s action makes separate schools “fully a part of the public education system.”

He said the OSSTA is “ecstatic” over the announcement and that much of the government’s proposed action was contained in a November 1981 OSSTA submission to the Ministry of Education.

Asseff agreed with Mr. McMahon that public support of Catholic secondary schools will not lead to a loss of autonomy. “We don’t think that will be a problem, although lots of details have to be worked out.”

For the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), the government’s change of education policy “wiped out” a large program of lobbying and political action designed to increase public support of Catholic schools. Nonetheless, “we’re delighted that this has occurred,” said John Fauteux, president-elect of OECTA.

Fauteux said the government’s reversal of policy stems from change in public opinion which has made it more favourable to give public support to Catholic secondary schools. Outgoing OECTA president Kevin Kennedy said his organization is anxious to participate in the government’s new implementation and financing committees to ensure that Catholic high schools retain their distinct nature. He added however, that Catholic educators will have to pay close attention to the new regulations to guard against any problems that may arise.

The Ontario Students’ Association for Fair Funding (OSAFF) said the government’s policy reversal was “a dramatic and momentous victory,” according to OSAFF president Rick Chiarelli.The government’s decision puts an end to the association’s Supreme Court challenge of the province’s education funding policies.

Describing the separate school system as one that provides a “competent and contemporary” education for one-third of Ontario families, Premier William Davis said in the Legislature, “it is the government’s intention to permit Roman Catholic school boards to establish a full range of elementary and secondary education and, as part of the public system, to be funded accordingly.”

Under the old system, separate schools were funded as elementary schools until Grade 10, forcing Grades 11 to 13 to operate as private schools and charge up to $1,000 tuition annually.

Starting in September 1985 separate boards will receive full government funding for Grades 9 and 10. Funding for the final three years of high school will be phased in over the following three years, making 1988 the first year of full Catholic secondary school funding.

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