Quebec FlagQuebec, or as Laya likes to call it, the coldest friggin place on earth, why do people live here? (she’s a little sensitive), has decided to fully subsidize all private Jewish day schools in the Province. Jewish day schools will now receive $5,200 CDN per student, on par with what public schools receive. The decision was met with a bit of criticism by those in the public school sector who believe this development will weaken it. However, what I think is controversial is the fact that for years my family had to pay local school taxes for public schools that we could not go to. Yay Quebec and yay Education Minister Pierre “Steinhardt” Reid.

UPDATE: Ooh! Looks like Jews in Ontario want the same deal from their provincial government too! Those Toronto guys copy everything we do!

UPDATE II: Uh oh. Quebec Premiere Charest is catching flak for the decision to increase funding to Jewish schools …

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Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.


  • Education Minister Pierre “Steinhardt” Reid.

    Bwahahahahahaha! 😆

    That is great news. Man, I’d be thrilled to have those kinds of subsidies.

  • Whoa!
    I guess that pretty much curbs aliyah from Quebec…

    Is there a catch? What prevents every Chaim, Rivka, and Steven on the continent from moving to Quebec and enjoying this massive subsidy?

  • Jim R: Couldn’t go to public schools because they didn’t teach Hebrew and none had any really good Judaic studies curriculum.

    Josh: Yes, unfortunately, there is a little catch. First, you can’t just move to Quebec per se, you have to immigrate here or have a visa of some kind. Second, unless one parent was educated in English, in Quebec your kids would have to study in French or go to a private english school that receives no govt. subsidies at all (ie very expensive – none of the Jewish day schools fit into that category). Mst of the Jewish day schools however have a French section… but its still French. Some might see this as a great opportunity to expand their kids’ linguistic horizons, others see it as unconscionable govt. interference.

  • Large Jewish communities are important when you counsider that 97.5% of the US population, and 98.5% of the Canadian population aren’t Jewish.

  • The Muffti hates (as if!) to be the voice of dissent, but he’s not sure why private schools should ever be subsidized by public funds. The public is responsible to maintain a reasonable education system. Choosing to opt out of it is your right, but I have never understood why others should help pay for it. (Having said that, I think it is beyond terrible to support some private schools and not others; in Ontario catholic schools get support while others don’t.) The fact that people have to pay into the public system is not a violation of their rights anymore than it is a violation to make people who don’t use the health care system pay for it.

  • Muffti, private schools have to adhere to minimum standards set by the government. Children at private schools belong to families that pay taxes but are unable to receive any benefit for their effort and contribution. Public school can only offer a limited range of educational offerings but costs and other factors prohibit them from offering the variety of choices that private schools offer.

    In other words, it’s a bit of a cop-out to say that public schools offer a sufficient minimum and if you deem that your child deserves a different approach, you no longer deserve any support even if you’re a taxpayer and the public school’s offerings do not satisfy your minimal needs.

    If I pay into the health insurance system, but want to pay a specialist extra to take care of a particular basic need in a unique or excessively cautious manner (say, getting an MRI when a basic head exam will do), then I have a right to have the basic portion of this physician’s treatment paid for by the system into which I pay my mandatory fees. Any additional services s/he provides should be covered by me if they go above and beyond the norm, but not if they are merely a different approach than that mandated by the system.

  • TM, The Muffti for once disagrees. People who send kids to private school can derive benefit from their tax dollars by sending their kids to public school. If they choose not to, they are welcome to but that doesn’t relieve them of the responsibility to ensure that their society provides quality education. Opting out hurts that public system if the public has to help pay for the private education.

    Most ridiculous, however, is requiring people to help pay for school systems that they either can’t take advantage of or have no reason to. For example, I see no reason why I should help subsidized schools that are only for cathlics. And I don’t see why catholics should help support school systems designed for jews. As far as I can tell, the government must provide public education and make sure that everyone has access to it. Beyond that, it has no responsibility whatsoever to support school systems that are alternatives to the system they provide.

  • But if the system they provide, by design does not offer the range of education desired by the public, then it does make sense if additional funds (not full subsidization, but partial subsidization) is made available to those individuals. Otherwise, no matter what, they system will never offer them the type of education they wish to provide to their children although it takes their tax money thereby preventing them from having the funds to provide that education outside of the public system.

    Why should a person be punished twice, as you propose? First, he is punished because he pays tax to support a system that offers an education he doesn’t wish to provide to his children. Second, he is punished because he has to send that child to a system that doesn’t provide that education. Third, if he chooses to forego punishment two, then he is punished by having to pay the entire range of fees that do provide his child with the education he wishes him to have, without any compensation from the government for the savings they incur by not having his son in their system.

    A partial subsidy to assist private schools is an honorable solution that assists all parties.

  • Another point to consider…each child out of the public school system is one child that the government does not have to educate, so you can look at subsidies as the government outsourcing some of its role. Granted, this is not as relevant when you are talking about one child, (can’t reduce or avoid having to add physical plant or teachers for one kid) but once you get up to enough to fill an entire school, it makes a difference. Especially since the parents will doubtless continue to pay a portion.


  • The Muffti has two things to say, but he is kind of sick so kindly forgive any incoherence.

    TM: You aren’t ‘punished’ twice as you say. You aren’t punished at all. The state has a responsibility to provide an education that it deems suitable. If you find that you don’t like that style of education, and you reject your states values, then I don’t see why the state should support you at all. That’s how a
    (social) democracy is supposed to work: the public represents of set of norms that they demand be reflected in education, which is balanced against a set of norms the state has (i.e. not to discriminate etc) and they come up with a school system and a cirriculum. If you don’t like it, you have the right to object and try to have the cirriculum changed. Otherwise, you can do whatever you like but I still don’t see why that should be the state’s problem.

    Daphna, you are right and perhaps if the numbers turned out right it would make sense for the government to give out these subsidies. But unless that’s thte case, I don’t see any argument independant of benefit towards the public system why they should be oblige to help out private schools and system.

  • T_M,
    I suppose you’re right. I very rarely regret leaving Montreal.
    Except for the lack of ice rinks in Israeli parks. Okay, I miss the poutine at Pizza Pita.

  • Muffti, you are sick, so I won’t point out that when you talk about how “this is how democracy is supposed to work,” you and I are in complete agreement. In fact, that is what happened here. They (Quebec) used to avoid paying any subsidies. Then a whole bunch of people complained and wrote letters. Somebody in power bought their argument after some years, probably saw some benefit to the province and perhaps politically to the party in power, and used their democratically given right to create this new subsidy.

    So in this respect, the system worked as it should and the outcome was to accept my thesis and reject yours. 😉

  • You know, Josh, poutine ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    Especially if you have to weather the friggin’ cold to eat it.

  • I’M LOVIN’ IT! grandmuffti and T_M sluggin’ it out. Ha ha ha ha. Hey T_M? Whatever happenned to the separation of Church and State? Are you in favour of Republican backed voucher programs for education now? And muffti, when we pay for school taxes, it doesn’t matter whether we take immediate advantage of it or not – we all, as members of society, benefit from an educated populace. In the same vein, why should a portion of my taxes be used to pay for roads when I don’t have a car? Because I benefit from roads regardless of whether I directly use them or not.

    That having been said, in Quebec, any religiously denominated school board can apply for the additional funds. Private schools are not really private. They received $3,200 per student prior to this announcement. In exchange they had to abide by the government’s language laws and follow the government’s curriculum. Other private schools who wish to go it alone, can do so but they get nothing and the kids pay upwards of $15,000 a year. In any case, society benefits from this arrangement too, given that in Quebec at least, the govt. feels that people educated under its curriculum, and who still retain a sense of their own ethnic and rekigious identity, adds to the open and cosmopolitan nature of the province. So why not then? Quebec has until recently had school boards aligned along religious lines – Catholic for the French and Protestant for the English. Anyhow, none of this offends me in the least (obviously), and I must say I am enjoying the spectacle of you two sniping at each other for a change. Heh.

  • Oh, and refuah shlemah muffti. Just add some extra hot sauce to the huevos and I am sure it’ll cure whatever’s ailin’ ya. Goin to mardi gras? I’m sure Michael wants to know….

  • CK, all those chiles in your food have finally caused some brain damage. Sniping? Me at Muffti? Not at all, this is a friendly debate.

    You bring up interesting points with respect to separation of church and state, and the vouchers. Canada isn’t the US, so I don’t think these issues are relevant in the same way.

    I will grant you that I have no response to the question of separation of church and state, since I advocate a total separation of the two. Having said that, if all the provinces cut all funding to private schools, I think that would be fair. Since instead, they fund some private schools, they should equally fund all private schools which qualify. That includes religious schools.

    Furthermore, as long as all religous schools are funded equally, I don’t see the same problem which might exist if one group had preference over another. It seems unfair to me that a school might be subsidizing a student to the tune of several thousand dollars a year, part of which is the money of Catholics and Jews, and yet if they send a child to a Catholic or Jewish school, the parents have to pay for their children’s education entirely out of their pocket and without even a tax break. This makes no sense at all because the state is definitely saving money by not having that student attend its schools.

    With respect to the vouchers, I should point out that there is a significant difference between the Republicans’ program and the one in Quebec. The Republicans want to provide universal vouchers so that every child receives a voucher in a certain amount. This isn’t 5 or 10 percent of the children out there, this is every single one. The cost would definitely cause shortfalls and harm to the existing public school system, whereas the Quebec system may encourage some more students to attend religious schools with some subsidy, but the numbers are relatively small and do not affect the entire system nor do they put it in jeopardy.

    Sheesh, forget it now. I am not moving to Montreal – poutine or no poutine.

  • Move to Israel and miss shoveling feet upon feet of snow on a regular basis every winter? Surely you jest. Israel may be home to our forefathers, foremothers, prophets, language and heritage, but Montreal has produced Irving Layton, Leonard Cohen and Mordechai Richler (not necessarily in that order). Oh, did I mention how I love Quebecois French?

  • Not just affordable private Jewish day schools (and Universities too I might add) but Kosher poutine too. But screw that. If you move it had better to Israel. No problem re. affordable Jewish education there. No poutine either, but the weather’s nicer.

  • Feh, what do I need from all that snow? Iknow all the french I’ll ever need to know, Quebecois or otherwise, and what do I need with old ashkenazic men? Richler’s dead and I’ve read everything he’s written. Cohen lives in Greece, so what has he done for me lately? Israel’s where it’s at man. You know that 😉

  • Ahem. The Muffti did say that he was against discriminatory giving of funds to groups – it’s obviously wrong to give to the catholics but not the jews etc. TM, it’s been a pleasure friendly debating with you. I do wish, however, that we could lookat the case rather than let you freely speculate away as to how the change came about. I suspect most likely at some point they decided to rectify a system that inequitably funded catholic private schools and not others. That has little to do w/democracy and everything to do with basic principles of group equality. As for ck, well, I agreed whole heartedly: you pay for systems that society has an obligation to protect (and that’s true even if you didn’t benefit from them at all, though everyone would seem to benefit at least indirectly in the ways you suggest). Furthermore, the Quebec government shouldn’t have to ‘buy off’ the alternative schools to ensure basic cirricular needs: all they need are general standards that, if alternative schools don’t live up to, they can claim the child isn’t being educated at all and force him/her back to public school.

  • Muffti, I want to commend you on your friendly debating skills.

    Government rarely volunteers to increase its expenditures unless somebody is lobbying and presenting the case on behalf of a constituency.

    I also fail to see why you would object to subsidies if they enable the province to save money by pulling students out of the public system.

    Hey CK, what is the highest cost for private Jewish education in Quebec? In other words, if I live in Montreal and earn a good living, how much are my fees before this subsidy?

  • I favor religious orientated schools because they have a better track record, as I read it, than public schools. Is it because they expect more, can discipline more, have higher behavior and moral standards, or attract children from religiously orientated families where these qualities already exist? I don’t know.

    I believe some competition is a good thing for public schools, and as long as any private school opens its doors to all comers and maintains public standards, and doesn’t make their curriculum just an extension of religious services, then some form of voucher compensation is valid for parents seeking alternatives.

    I support Bush’s No Child Left Behind results oriented attitude toward education. I support his public funding of social services provided by religious organizations. I am not particularly religious myself, but cannot and will not deny the positive(for the very most part) effects it has on the moral and character development of young people.

    At the same time societies need to be careful that private religious schools are not used by the extreme element in religions to separate themselves from others and the values of the Nation they swear allegiance to as citizens of that Nation.

  • The Muffti grew up in ontario and can assure you that the lobby to fund private Jewish schools was run entirely on the basis that it was wrong to only fund a private catholic school system and leave its jewish counterpart unfunded. It had nothing to do with a groundswell of democratic support. No politician ever ran on a platform promising it. Just because it is lobbied for does not mean that it has much to do with the democratic process. Anyhow, I’m not saying it was a nice gesture by the government that was unmotivated by any requests: just that there was no overwhelming popular support for it in ontario.

    anyhow, Muffti thinks that the ‘taking kids out of the public system’ is a rather simplistic argument to make. There are lots of ways to hurt a system by taking kids out of it: if one area, for instance, sees a drastic rate on decline due to private schools, its public school will have to close for instance which causes messes for the people in the community. In the absurd case, if everyone decided on private school, then the public system would completely die, which would be a shame if a little while later people wanted to send their kids to public school. In any case, I don’t see how this argument really helps in our case. Kids already were, going to private school, but the public system wasn’t spending money on them. Now the money spent on them for private school is being removed from public coffers. So unless there is going to be a large net benefit, I don’t see how this consideration helps much now.

    Jim R: While Muffti can see ways in which it is handy to provide public support through religious social services, especially when those services have a set up infrastructure and roots in communities, etc., I still think it is generally to be avoided. Religious social services have an agenda, and when providing help is conditional upon furthering that agenda, something has gone wrong. I don’t want my taxes paying to help people on the condition that they accept Jesus in their lives; I want my taxes paying for people to get help. If the organizations in question can show that they don’t push their agenda, great. But otherwise, it seems like a downright travesty to see some parts of the population get aid while others are shut out from it.

  • Muffti, there was no popular support because the parties most detrimentally affected were significant minorities. If I recall, they even took it to the Supreme Court and lost because the deal with subsidizing Roman Catholic education long preceded the Charter of Rights and apparently pre-empts its.

    You don’t need a popular support or a vote, to change things in a democracy. You merely have to get the ear of the people in power and convince them of the benefits of making the changes you seek. If they agree, you have worked successfully within the democratic system. Right?

    Your second point is that if the government is already getting away with not subsidizing certain students, it’s a loss to subsidize them now. I guess that’s true, but government is supposed to treat all equally.

    Jim R, I don’t know that private religious schools are superior in any way, other than to be able to promote their religion to their students, to non-religious school, be they private or public. I think you get moral guidance from home, not from school.

  • Oy, TM, Muffti is sick of this. Stop saying silly things so that we can start agreeing again. The government should treat people equally: but that is consistent with them NOT funding catholics, rather than funding catholics and jews. Anyhow, I do agree that given that we can’t not fund catholics, we should fund jewish schools. I just think it’s ridiculous that the government funds any private institutions: they should be trying to keep their public schools as high quality as possible, not ensuring that alternative systems of education are doing well.

  • Err…Muffti just realized that that wasnt’ very polite. Sorry TM. We still good?

  • Muffti, are you kidding? This is friendly banter. You have never seen me in a real debate with the daggers out.

  • Anyway, your last point is an interesting one:

    they [government] should be trying to keep their public schools as high quality as possible, not ensuring that alternative systems of education are doing well.

    I wonder whether you are right. We know that public schools simply cannot cater to all needs. By any logical approach to funding as well as populating public schools in terms of faculty and students, there are always going to be limitations to what the school can offer. The schools, by necessity, trend toward the middle or, alternatively, the lowest common denominator.

    Private schools of all sorts provide an alternative and outlet for those children who don’t fit that particular box. As such, they provide a valuable service to society, while freeing up funds for the public schools to care for the broadest possible segment of the population.

    As such, it makes ample sense to have government subsidies to support alternative schools. Whether this should include religious schools, or schools for the wealthy, is a different matter (and the answer is probably, no), but true alternative schools – for the gifted, for the hard-of-learning, for the deaf – should definitely be funded by the state.

  • Muffti can agree with having schools for the gifted, hard of learning etc. As long as they are public schools. What I was objecting too was private school funding. I agree that public schools will tend to aim at the broadest possible spectrum. If you don’t like it, pony up the money and go to a better school.

  • Oy. Why are you so adamant? I assume you agree with the premise that basic education is a right? In fact, it’s mandated by the law. You HAVE to send your kids to school. However, what if a public school is simply not an option? I know that in your circles in Toronto, Jewish day schools were more of a choice, given that most of the families were secular. But in some circles, sending your kid to a public school, with no kosher food, or facilities for daily prayer, or suitable curriculum, is just NOT an option. Thus it is unfair to burden someone with additional costs in order to pursue something that is both a right (religious freedom) and a legal obligation – especially when you’re taxing them anyway.

  • Muffti is adamant, as always, because he is right! 🙂 Agreed that education is a basic right. And I agree that religious freedom is a basic right. Communities that find this sort of thing important should support the ability of their members to go to other schools if they find the public offering unacceptable. Which is what they did in Toronto (funds were set up so kids that wanted/needed to go to jewish schools would be taken care of financially.) You have a right to pursue any religious practice you like but you don’t have a right to then insist that the public pay to ensure that you can practice your chosen religion.

  • no offense but given the expanded curriculum of jewish day schools, and smaller sizes, the governments $5200 subsidy, while generous, still requires the parenst to shell out more $$. You think religious education is a privilege, I think equity with respect to government subsidies is the right thing to do. You have your opinion and I have mine. You’re wrong of course, but at least we agree on huevos. We should get subsidies for that at least.