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Catholic teachers, trustees split over Bill 160 ruling

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Separate school teachers and trustees could find themselves standing on opposite sides of the fence after the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association said it would “study” Justice Cumming’s ruling on Bill 160.

OCSTA president Regis O’Connor said last week the association “has always maintained that Catholic boards have a constitutional right to tax.”

But he also noted the OCSTA chose not to challenge the removal of that right to tax under Bill 160 because of the new funding model that came with it.

“This allowed the government to implement, for the first time in the history of Ontario, a fair and equitable funding formula for all children in public or separate schools,” O’Connor stressed.

Paul Jackson, director of education for the Northwest Catholic School Board, said a better funding system is something separate school board trustees have been anxious to see for a long time.

“We want the kids in Toronto funded the same way as the kid in Dryden,” Jackson said, noting the new funding model was more equitable than the previous one.

But reaction from the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association seems to be quite different from that of the OCSTA. OECTA president Marshal Jarvis charged Bill 160 is “seriously flawed” and needs to be corrected.

“As Catholic teachers, we have always been convinced that Bill 160 violates the constitution by abolishing the right of Roman Catholic school boards to tax separate school supporters, and by transferring the power to control and direct separate school expenditures to the provincial government,” he said.

“At the very least, this government stands convicted of gross insensitivity towards minority and majority education rights in this province,” he argued.

“The provincial government will have no credibility unless we immediately see its commitment to restoring a more democratic balance of power in education,” he stressed.

For now, Jackson said things go on as usual although he noted the local Catholic board will have watch and see how the situation develops. But he also hoped the potential split between Catholic teachers and trustees doesn’t happen.

“This board’s working relationship with teachers is very friendly at this time,” he said. “We hope this won’t jeopardize that relationship.”

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