Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Grading The Star's Jim Coyle

The Star has some good or excellent columnists - but Jim Coyle doesn't rank up there from what I've read.

In a recent column:

Hard Truth in Report Card - July 4th 2006

Coyle cherry picks some quotes from a recent report by "education" lobby group People for Education. Do you expect a columnist in a major newpaper to pick a few tasty quotes from a report - and wrap them up into a column - without doing any due diligence? If you are reading Coyle that's likely what you are expecting:

Coyle quotes the report:

Increasingly, this revenue also pays for essentials. It also risks creating a system of have and have-not schools where quality of education depends on "the amount of free time parents have, parents' capacity to raise money and the wealth of the community."

Somehow lost is the fact that the current funding formula - implemented by the Mike Harris government - greatly reduced inequities between Ontario schools in terms of funding. The equitable funding model arose out of the 1995 Royal Commission on Learning (under Socialist Bob Rae no less!):

As a result of variations in assessment wealth, many boards provide program levels that appear to be significantly in excess of provincial standards, while others have difficulty offering a basic program and very few options. In the past, when resources were more readily available, the inequities could be dealt with by increasing the level of the "have-nots" to that of the "haves," but this is no longer possible. Instead, the same pie must be sliced and distributed differently. Given that some boards will get a smaller portion, proposals for such funding reforms are necessarily controversial. (Love of Learning - Chapter 18)

Some school boards had twice or more the spending power as others:

Commercial and industrial revenue is often generated in one place but paid to a municipal authority in another. In most such cases, it is paid to larger urban centres, regardless of where it has actually been generated. For instance, major corporate head offices tend to be clustered in a few large urban areas, while the corporate income comes from across the province.

The presence of Parliament in Ottawa and of the Ontario Legislature in Toronto generates considerable tax revenue for those cities, through direct government spending and the spending of government employees, as well as through the impact on tourism.

The taxes that sustain these operations, as well as taxes that directly or indirectly subsidize such tourist attractions as the National Arts Centre (which gets tax money raised in all parts of Canada), the Ontario Science Centre, and SkyDome come from all parts of the province - as do visitors to them. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Ottawa Board of Education has almost twice the provincial average of per-pupil property assessment wealth, while Metropolitan Toronto has more than twice the provincial average.

Well, I guess with nothing else to write, Coyle just decided to add to the already mile-high pile of fluff reporting mindlessly denigrating the Harris government.

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