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New study reveals test scores higher in provinces that fund independent schools

Particularly among lower-income students


Claudia R. Hepburn, (416) 967-2923

William Robson, (416) 865-1904

For Release: 15 February 2002

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA AND VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA— A new study, published jointly by the Fraser Institute and the Indianapolis-based Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation, concludes that the provinces which provide public funding to independent schools have higher academic achievement, especially for lower-income students.

The study, released today, is entitled Learning from Success: What Americans Can Learn from School Choice in Canada. According to the study, school choice-particularly in the form of public subsidy of independent schools-can work to improve the equity, socialization, quality, and accountability of education.

"Provincial policies on independent school funding and other forms of school choice vary dramatically across the country," says Claudia R. Hepburn, co-author of the study and director of education policy at the Fraser Institute. "A comparison of these policies, coupled with international test results, shows a connection between publicly-funded school choice and higher achievement, particularly for lower-income students. This study goes a long way towards debunking the age-old theory that school choice cannot help low-income children."

Among the study's findings:
  1. International comparisons show that Canadian provinces that provide public funding to independent schools tend to have both higher average achievement scores and better scores for less advantaged students, suggesting that such funding enhances quality. Test scores are higher in areas where parents enjoy a wide variety of school choices.
  2. In provinces that provide public funding for independent schools, children from lower-income families attend independent schools in greater numbers and form a higher percentage of total independent school enrollment than they do in provinces that do not fund independent schools. Simply put, lower-income families take advantage of school choice and send their children to independent schools more often when those schools are publicly subsidized.
  3. Publicly subsidized independent schools can be accountable to government and still maintain their independence and distinctiveness.

"There are some important success stories in Canadian education," says co-author William Robson, vice-president and director of research at the C.D. Howe Institute. "Provinces that have expanded choice have important lessons for those that have not, and for Americans wondering how to improve the performance of their schools."

Education Funding in Canada

Public funding of school choice has a long history in some Canadian provinces, while in others there is very little. The province of Quebec has provided per-student grants to independent schools, worth up to 60 percent of public school grants, since 1968. British Columbia has funded independent private schools with per-student grants worth up to 50 percent of public school operating costs since 1977. Alberta also offers partial funding (35 percent) to independent schools, funds many Catholic schools and a handful of Protestant schools on the same basis as it does regular public schools, and also funds charter schools.

Manitoba makes public funds available to qualifying independent schools, including religious schools. Saskatchewan provides funding to Catholic schools, as well as to some Protestant schools and a few independent schools.

Ontario funds Catholic schools on the same basis as it does regular public schools and last year created a refundable tax credit, which, when fully implemented, will be worth 50 percent of tuition, up to C$3,500.

The Atlantic Provinces offer no funding for independent or religious schools.

"Clearly, some parts of Canada are way ahead of the United States in recognizing the value of choice to low-income students," says Gordon St. Angelo, president of the Friedman Foundation. "The Canadian experience, documented in this study, will be of great value to the ongoing American debate over school choice."


About the Fraser Institute
Established in 1974, The Fraser Institute is an independent public policy organization based in Vancouver with offices in Calgary and Toronto.

About The Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation
Dubbed "the nation's leading voucher advocates" by The Wall Street Journal, the Milton & Rose D. Friedman Foundation was started by Nobel laureate Dr. Milton Friedman and Dr. Rose D. Friedman in 1996 as a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the role competition plays in achieving real K-12 education reform.