More than half of British Columbians (51%) strongly oppose "providing taxpayer funds to faith-based private schools that include religious teachings in their curriculum" according to a new poll from Insights West. A total of 69% were opposed with 18% somewhat opposed.
The poll was commissioned by the Institute for Public Education/British Columbia and First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. It found that two-thirds of respondents (66%) were opposed to public funds going to private secular schools.
Annually, the Government of BC provides nearly half a billion of dollars to private independent schools in the province. Elite schools receive 35% of what a neighbouring public school receives, while most private schools receive a 50% stipend. An analysis by the BC Humanist Association found that 62% of that money went to Christian and Catholic schools.
Nearly four-in-five (78%) were opposed to funding elite private schools.
Total opposition to public funding of private schools remains consistent with a 2016 Insights West poll commissioned by the BCHA. However, opposition has grown more intense: In 2016 only 46% of British Columbians were strongly opposed to public funding going to private religious schools, and only 40% were strongly opposed to funding private secular schools.
The new poll also found that 81% of people do not believe private schools should be exempted from the BC Human Rights Code's protections for employees and students. The BCHA has documented private school policies that exclude LGBTQ2+ staff, families and students from working or attending those schools.
Finally, the poll found that 73% of respondents disagreed with granting private schools exemptions from property taxes, with 56% strongly disagreeing. The BCHA has been documenting how some BC municipalities are starting to apply public benefits tests to properties owned by religious organizations before granting additional property tax exemptions.
Ian Bushfield, Executive Director, BC Humanist Association:
This poll confirms what we've known for a while: British Columbians do not support the continued handout to private schools at the expense of public education. This should send a message to MLAs in Victoria that it's time to revisit how we fund our schools.
It also tells municipal councils across the province that it's time to take a second look at the exemptions given to private schools from property taxes.
Sandra Mathison, Executive Director, Institute for Public Education BC:
Given the overwhelming opposition to public subsidies for elite private schools and the importance of adequately funding public education, the BC Ministry of Education should discontinue these subsidies immediately. This should be followed by a plan to phase out subsidies to faith-based schools as well.
Adrienne Montani, First Call’s Provincial Coordinator:
Findings from this survey supports First Call’s position that adequate funding for public schools should be government’s priority. We need to ensure that all students, regardless of family income, can have their learning needs met at their local, public school.
Results are based on an online study conducted from May 13-20, 2019 among a representative sample of 817 British Columbians. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding.
Banner: Education Minister Rob Fleming via Flickr/bcgovphotos CC BY-NC-ND 2.0