AngryFrenchGuy

Is Yolande James Endorsing Québec Private Schools over Public Schools?

with 34 comments

I was looking for the sports pages in La Presse this morning when a 60 page full color catalog for Québec’s public schools network called Le Privé fell into my lap.

The marketing insert is published by the Fédération des Établissements d’Enseignement Privés du Québec and features descriptions of Québec’s many private schools and sappy testimonials by famous Québécois including 2006 patriot of the year Luck Merville, Université de Montréal vice-rector Rachida Azdouz and Provincial Immigration and cultural communities minister Yolande James.

Let’s be clear, the magazine format notwithstanding, this is a publicity insert that was bundled with cell phone, electronics and appliance publicity inserts.  The FÉEP is a lobby group for private schools.  Schools run as businesses who sell their products to Québec parents. It’s also a heavily subsidized industry as Québec private schools can receive as much as 60% of their funding from the provincial government.

Is it appropriate for a cabinet minister to be featured in such a publicity insert?  Doesn’t it look as if she is endorsing private schools over public schools?  Is this not clearly a conflict of interest?

What if she was posing on a Bombardier or a RioTintoAlcan insert?  Or in a Dairy Producers of Québec marketing magazine?

The interviewees do not endorse any schools or private schools in general and only talk about diversity and multiculturalism.  Someone knew there was something wrong or at the very least controversial about a minister endorsing private schools and made sure she did not actually pronounce the words.  But her pictures and testimonials in a magazine solely devoted to private schools IS an endorsement.

Only yesterday Parti québécois education critic Louise Harel called for a moratorium on new private schools until the public sector is fixed.

The multicultural message peddled by the private schools is quite hypocritical since, while Montreal’s public schools are very diverse, publicly financed private schools are allowed to have clearly ethnic missions and Montreal has a whole bunch of these ghetto Armenian and Jewish schools.

In 1975 10% of Québec schoolchildren went to private schools.  Today it’s one third.  The public system is running the risk of becoming a welfare school for only the poorest of the poor who can’t afford to go to the ‘good’ schools.  No other province in Canada is as generous with private schools.  Ontario doesn’t give them a dime.  Québec has created a de facto voucher system.

This is what Yolande James endorsed today.

Written by angryfrenchguy

September 12, 2008 at 10:30 am

34 Responses

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  1. I had no idea the private school numbers were that high….I am wondering, do they have to adhere to the french curriculum or can they do as they wish. I am wondering if it might be a way for franco parents (or immigrants if they could affor it) to cheat the system and enroll their children in a predominately anglo curriculum???

    ABP

    ABP

    September 12, 2008 at 2:29 pm

  2. Not really ABP. In order to get the maximum funding from the ministry of education private schools in Quebec have to pretty much follow the regular provincial curriculum. So although almost all private schools in Quebec offer advanced English courses (much better than in the public system), they couldn’t have a “predominantly English curriculum” and still get the generous funding.

    The vast majority of francophone parents in Quebec, even most those who are well-off enough to send their kids to private school, aren’t really interested in sending their kids to school in English all day.

    Acajack

    September 12, 2008 at 3:16 pm

  3. Question answered, thanks. We dont have that many private schools in SK and I am not aware of any subsidized funding they receive. Could be…I just dont know.

    ABP

    ABP

    September 12, 2008 at 3:37 pm

  4. There are a few private schools in Quebec that do not follow the ministry curriculum and rules. They get almost no funding and cost $10,000 a year and up, as opposed to the funded ones which generally run around $2,500 a year.

    Acajack

    September 12, 2008 at 3:46 pm

  5. “The vast majority of francophone parents in Quebec, even most those who are well-off enough to send their kids to private school, aren’t really interested in sending their kids to school in English all day.”

    Most people would probably prefer a mix of the 2 languages. However, given that is not really an option for most, there is pent up demand for English language education. I think you can see that from the diverging fortunes of the English high school system (bad) and the CEGEP system (great). I also read a while back about people somewhere on the US border sending their kids to schools in the US so they learn English.

    With respect to the ad, I assume that the more kids go to private schools, the less the government has to pay for them and perhaps can spend the savings on the public schools system.

    AM

    September 13, 2008 at 7:31 am

  6. ABP and Acajack:

    Some years back there was a controversy on just this issue regarding a private boarding school in the Eastern Townships called Stanstead. If I remember correctly, there were government funds that all private schools get but they had to adhere to certain guidelines regarding the very things under discussion here.

    Stanstead refused and thereby gave up mucho subsidies from the Quebec Government that they otherwise would have been entitled to.

    T.K.

    September 13, 2008 at 10:07 am

  7. What do you think can be happened with the public schools after so many years of flirting with separatism?

    happy new quebecois

    September 13, 2008 at 7:22 pm

  8. Thank you AFG for shining light on this problem. The issue is not unique to “ghetto” private schools, however. It’s a social class issue. Many rich and middle class people can afford to send their children to “private” schools, while the public schools suffer through underfunding. I teach in an english public school here in Montreal and it disgusts me that this province subsidizes private schools to the degree that it does.

    I hear people complain about the threat of a two tier health care, but trust me, it pales in comparison to the privatization of our school system. At least with two-tiered health care, the user pays. With two-tiered education (what we have now), the user pays only a fraction of the true cost, the rest being subsidized by the taxpayer. There is very little political pressure to change this situation because the very people who benefit from it (the rich and middle class), are the same people who are most likely to take an interest in their child’s education. I’d love to know how many MNAs send their children to subsidized private schools.

    William

    September 14, 2008 at 5:09 am

  9. Private schools subsidies are, it seems, untouchable. Taboo.
    See this recent interview with education minister Courchesne in Lapresse :
    http://www.cyberpresse.ca/article/20080910/CPOPINIONS05/809100920/5050/CPPRESSE

    Anonymous

    September 14, 2008 at 7:47 am

  10. Wow. With Courshesne and Yolande James at the table, the future of public schools looks bright indeed.

    If this is going to be the deal, why not a full on voucher system? Why not pay to send poor kids to private schools to?

    angryfrenchguy

    September 14, 2008 at 8:48 am

  11. Well, this magazine’s intentions are not so clear : It doesn’t feature testimonies as much as biographies of the people on the front page. Luck Merville publicly endorsed Québec Solidaire, so I doubt he would give his OK to be in this magazine, knowing what this was about…

    This looks like Le Privé wants to be cool -by association-, by ‘featuring’ Fred Pellerin and a few other ‘hip’ Québécois.

    François

    September 14, 2008 at 9:07 am

  12. RE: “rich kids” going to private schools funded by taxpayers

    As some people may know here, news magazine L’actualité publishes an annual special edition which is report card on all of the high schools in Quebec (public and private). No surprise: private schools always take up almost all of the top rankings.

    But an interesting tidbit of information is contained in the profile for each school, which contain all sorts of data. The tidbit I am referring to is “parents’ income”. What is interesting about this is that family incomes for private school kids in Quebec are generally in the 70 to $80,000 range, which is a bit higher than the average family income in Quebec (just under $60,000 I think) but certainly in the rich category. In Gatineau, the top two private schools, St-Joseph and St-Alexandre, have kids with average family incomes in the $75,000 to $80,000 range, which is very, very close to the average family income in this region.

    Private school admissions are based on merit (marks in the latter years of elementary plus an admissions exam and interviews) rather than on a parent’s ability to pay. (Keep in mind most parents in Quebec have been paying $7 a day daycare for some time, so paying $2,500 a year for a private high school is not beyond most people’s reach.)

    For the record, I don’t have any kids in high school at the moment, as my children are young and are going to the neighbourhood public elementary school.

    Acajack

    September 14, 2008 at 9:43 am

  13. Oops!

    “but certainly NOT in the rich category.”‘

    Acajack

    September 14, 2008 at 10:19 am

  14. Nice article on Courchesne. I am sure the whole political class in the province sends their kids to private schools.

    From a fiscal perspective, it would seem though that the more kids go to private school, the less that costs the government. Taking Acajack’s numbers, now the government spends $7,500 on the instead of $10,000. Granted, not everyone will be able to afford $2,500 although I think a good majority of the province’s population will. For the rest, the voucher system mentioned by AFG could work. You would have to “means test” it.

    I would presonally prefer an all public schools system, but that will not happen. And for those who have to go to public schools, it is not the worst thing in the world. My high school shows up close to 400th on around 450 schools in that L’Actualite ranking and that has not stopped most of my classmates from going on to university and becoming productive members of society…

    AM

    September 14, 2008 at 11:19 am

  15. The question is so simple. I sent my kid to the private school just with on goal – to give him English. In the public school it is impossible. I met lots of graduators from public schools. No word in English. Bill 101, do not forget.

    new quebecois

    September 14, 2008 at 11:41 am

  16. AFG! You manage to pick up beautiful English! Why you supporter of 101 try to block Quebecois to do the same?

    new quebecois

    September 14, 2008 at 11:47 am

  17. new quebecois! I managed to pick up “beautiful English” without ever going to English School! So bill 101 had nothing to do with it!

    By the way I support better English classes in all schools. As does Pauline Marois by the way. As do most sovereigntists. The problem is not the will. Maybe it’s because all the public money goes to private schools?

    By the way, my education was all public except for one year in a private schools. The English classes were better in the PUBLIC school.

    angryfrenchguy

    September 14, 2008 at 1:29 pm

  18. “I managed to pick up “beautiful English” without ever going to English School! So bill 101 had nothing to do with it!”

    I think you recently wrote that you grew up in NDG. Then you were probably very exposed to English all your life – in school, on the street- aand learned the language at an early age. This is not something most Francophones experience.

    “The problem is not the will. Maybe it’s because all the public money goes to private schools?”

    Just think about this a little. If you stopped subsidizing private schools, all of a sudden people have to $10K instead of $2.5K to send their kids to private, meaning that a lot fewer people will be able to afford it. What will they then do? Send them to public where the government will be paying $10K per student and not $7.5K, increasing the education funding requirement.

    Now if you tell me that a student in private school is subsidized to the same degree (or more) a public school student is, then I would be very upset by James’ ad.

    “By the way I support better English classes in all schools. As does Pauline Marois by the way. As do most sovereigntists.”

    I am not sure about most sovereignists given the uproar caused by Marois’ recent suggestion on bilingual education.

    AM

    September 14, 2008 at 3:11 pm

  19. Pauline Marois doesn’t speak English at all. Just few words. I ‘ve heard by myself! And now she is promising to improve English? I don’t believe this old granny!

    new quebecois

    September 14, 2008 at 4:26 pm

  20. “I had no idea the private school numbers were that high….I am wondering, do they have to adhere to the french curriculum or can they do as they wish. I am wondering if it might be a way for franco parents (or immigrants if they could affor it) to cheat the system and enroll their children in a predominately anglo curriculum???”

    and

    “The question is so simple. I sent my kid to the private school just with on goal – to give him English. In the public school it is impossible. I met lots of graduators from public schools. No word in English. Bill 101, do not forget.

    Interesting.

    ABP

    ABP

    September 14, 2008 at 11:07 pm

  21. “I think you recently wrote that you grew up in NDG. Then you were probably very exposed to English all your life – in school, on the street- aand learned the language at an early age. This is not something most Francophones experience.”

    True, but my cousin who lived two blocks down had to go to Scotland to learn English. She’d been to private school…

    “Just think about this a little. If you stopped subsidizing private schools, all of a sudden people have to $10K instead of $2.5K to send their kids to private, meaning that a lot fewer people will be able to afford it. What will they then do? Send them to public where the government will be paying $10K per student and not $7.5K, increasing the education funding requirement.”

    That IS an interesting way to look at it…

    “I am not sure about most sovereignists given the uproar caused by Marois’ recent suggestion on bilingual education.”

    Nothing the media loves more than a good ol’ PQ chicane de famille. I’d say VLB’s campaign was a flop, the pur et durs PI got no votes in the by-elections last year and that Marois’ got the majority of the Québec people on her side.

    angryfrenchguy

    September 14, 2008 at 11:30 pm

  22. “The question is so simple. I sent my kid to the private school just with on goal – to give him English. In the public school it is impossible. I met lots of graduators from public schools. No word in English. Bill 101, do not forget.
    Interesting.”

    It is interesting but keep in mind this is likely Sergei, who is something of a *special* case.

    Now, I am not saying that there aren’t people out there who think like Sergei. There are and they tend to think that English (in Quebec) is somehow a “magic potion” and unfortunately sometimes tend to value learning it over learning anything else.

    I have neighbours on my street whose origins are in a Montreal immigrant community famously known for its enthusiasm for the English language, and they report getting major grief and threats from their parents and families for enrolling their kids in French school (they technically would have the right to send them to English schools). Although both my neighbours can speak French, they find their competencies in the language to be lacking, and really want their kids to speak perfect French and “fit in” (their choice of words).

    Acajack

    September 15, 2008 at 8:51 am

  23. I know a ton of people who went to private schools and came from lower middle-class families. Their parents wanted them to have a better education than they had received at public schools.

    Current Quebec gov’t subsidies to private schools are the equivalent of 60% of what the costs are at public schools. If subsidies were dropped, the gov’t would have to pay 100 %, ie an increase of 66% per child.

    Lets assume there are 2 million schoolchildren, of which 25% , or 500 000 are in private schools. Lets assume that abolishing subsidies would send 75% back to the public system, ie 375,000. So if each kid cost $ 4000 more to put into the public system, simple arithmetic says that makes $1,500,000,000. per annum, ie an increase of 3.3% of the entire budget of the province. What politician is going to go for that kind of tax increase?

    Dave

    September 15, 2008 at 1:05 pm

  24. There are 145 000 kids in private schools. If 75% went back to the public that would be 114 000 kids. If I take your 4000$ figure the price of bringing them back to the public sector is 450 millions.

    For that price you get:

    1. A more fair system that treats all kids equally.
    2. An extra 1.14 BILLION dollars re-injected into the public system. (The entire 10 000$ goes to public schools now.)
    3. Decease in the high cost of welfare, health care and crime-fighting that comes with poor urban schools.

    And that’s if I accept your premise – which, from experience, I actually reject completely – that private schools provide better education.

    angryfrenchguy

    September 15, 2008 at 1:33 pm

  25. Not sure what to make of all these provincial budget numbers but I have to agree with Dave that except for some very rare exceptions (Brébeuf in Montreal, perhaps), most of the private schools in Quebec are hardly exclusive enclaves for rich kids. The average family income for kids in the top two Gatineau private schools I alluded to above means that the typical dad could work at the mail room in a government building or is in charge of the paint section at RONA, and mom is maybe a secretary or an admin assistant in some office somewhere.

    Acajack

    September 15, 2008 at 1:43 pm

  26. “most of the private schools in Quebec are hardly exclusive enclaves for rich kids. ”

    Maybe not, but they siphon over a billion dollars out of the public schools who don’t have the privilege of excluding the poorest of the poor, the kids living in problematic family environments and those with learning disabilities.

    angryfrenchguy

    September 15, 2008 at 1:57 pm

  27. Sorry aboput my very very approximate numbers, but if 25% of kids go to private schools and that makes 145 000 kids, it means that there are 580 000 schoolchildren in Quebec, or about 7.7% of the population. Seems awfully small to me.

    I don’t think most people who sacrifice to send their kids to private schools would accept that they are consciously increasing welfare recipients, increasing health care costs and contributing to higher crime rates. Surely you exagerate. Why not throw in tuberculosis, yellow fever, AIDS, gun violence, street gangs , hey how about all of society’s ailments are caused by too may kids in private schools.

    Dave

    September 15, 2008 at 2:12 pm

  28. I don’t know where you get you 25% figure. Here’s the numbers:

    http://www.mels.gouv.qc.ca/sections/publications/index.asp?page=fiche&id=230

    30% of Montreal kids go to private schools but many region like Abitibi, I believe, just don’t have any.

    “Surely you exagerate. Why not throw in tuberculosis, yellow fever, AIDS, gun violence, street gangs , hey how about all of society’s ailments are caused by too may kids in private schools.”

    I just might…

    angryfrenchguy

    September 15, 2008 at 2:25 pm

  29. “There are 145 000 kids in private schools. If 75% went back to the public that would be 114 000 kids. If I take your 4000$ figure the price of bringing them back to the public sector is 450 millions.

    For that price you get:

    1. A more fair system that treats all kids equally.
    2. An extra 1.14 BILLION dollars re-injected into the public system. (The entire 10 000$ goes to public schools now.)
    3. Decease in the high cost of welfare, health care and crime-fighting that comes with poor urban schools.”

    Now I do not know what the exact figures (I used Acajack’s numbers earlier). AFG, if you are bringing these kids back to public, it will cost the government $450 million more, NOT less. Let’s assume that what Dave says is right that government subsidies to private school kids are 60% of that of public school kids and that it takes $10K to teach a student. That means that every public school student costs $10K and every private school student costs $6K.

    Now, if a kid goes from private to public, he costs the government $10K when before he cost $6K. That is $4K EXTRA per student.

    The $1.14 billion you mention is reinjected into the public system, but on a per student basis, there is no increase (you are still spending $10K per student). Also, the government has to come up with an extra $450 million which would come from other programs (such as welfare, health care and crime-fighting that comes with poor urban schools) or from an increase in taxes.

    AM

    September 15, 2008 at 2:51 pm

  30. Think of it this way: in private school, the parent “helps out” the government by paying part of the cost, while in public school, the government pays the whole lot. So if you abolished private schools, the government would not get the financial help from parents.

    This is not to say I agree with having private schools. I am sure that there are so many because of financial reasons: it costs the government less.

    AM

    September 15, 2008 at 2:55 pm


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