Should private money fund public schools?

Our news & views

April 18, 2017

Chapman's Ice Cream is offering $2 million in funding to save the only school in Markdale from closing.  

A proposed deal to keep the school open for the next two years has been approved by the Bluewater District School Board. According to the proposal, Chapman’s Ice Cream and Parataxis Design and Development Corporation have offered to pay $2 million each to rebuild Beavercrest Community School. For the next two years, while a deal is being worked out, the Municipality of Grey Highlands has agreed to pay $50,000 annually to cover the extra costs of keeping the school open, while Chapman’s has agreed to cover any expenses beyond that.

Under the current provincial fundraising guidelines, private funding cannot be used to operate schools. However, the $50,000 in annual funding would be provided through the rental of school space, which is allowed.  The details regarding how the re-building of the school will be funded have not yet been determined, but may involve the private funding being used to build a community hub, while the school board funds the school itself.  However, the Ministry would still have to approve the building of a new school, and provide funding to build it.

This situation raises a number of questions:

  • The vitality of communities relies on local businesses supporting the economy, and those businesses need a vibrant community, including a local school, to attract and keep employees. How can we ensure that our smaller communities thrive?
  • Funding from private companies can lead to ‘have’ and ‘have not’ communities, just as fundraising within schools can lead to ‘have’ and ‘have not’ schools. Should private funding be used to support public schools? 
  • How can we ensure that students in small-town, rural and northern regions have access to the same education programs and services as their urban counterparts? 

People for Education’s 2015/16 Annual Report on Ontario’s Schools raised significant questions about the impact of geography on students’ equitable access to education. Students living in small towns, rural and Northern communities are less likely to have music or health and physical education teachers, have less access to psychologists, and are more likely to attend schools that put caps on waiting lists for special education.

In order to close the gap between rural and urban schools and communities, schools need to be recognized as assets that affect everyone. School boards, municipalities, and Public Health need to work together to develop a long-term plan for the whole community.

Listen to “Why Chapman’s Ice Cream is desperate to save local school from closure” on CBC’s The Current.