A unifying force is sweeping Saskatchewan and bringing together left and right; rural and urban; First Nations communities and Hutterite colonies; and, of course, Catholics and protestants.
Saskatchewanians are united in the conviction that parents and students have the right to choose their schools.
This explosion of solidarity was sparked by a court ruling suggesting non-Catholic students shouldn’t get public funding to attend Catholic schools.
Reaction was swift.
“We will defend school choice for students and parents,” said Premier Brad Wall.
Defend indeed. Premier Wall is invoking the constitution’s notwithstanding clause to nullify the judicial decision. While using the notwithstanding clause is a big step, there’s bipartisan consensus to resist this ruling.
“We support an appeal moving forward and we support the consideration of invoking the notwithstanding clause,” said NDP leader Trent Wotherspoon.
It’s hard to imagine Premier Wall and Mr. Wotherspoon agreeing on anything, but they’re defending school choice together.
Unsurprisingly, Catholic schools agree.
“We believe we have the right to have an inclusive and welcoming admittance policy,” said Tom Fortosky of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association.
But Catholic schools aren’t alone.
“Any time you take away education opportunities for any child, it’s not a good decision,” said Bobby Cameron, the chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations.
All of which put the public school board administrators in a very lonely position as they explained why they went to court to limit children’s options of which school to attend.
“It’s important to public schools because we’ve experienced a loss of students; there’s been implications for capital,” said Larry Huber of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association.
It’s too bad the public school boards fail to recognize the benefits of competition to ensure accountability and drive innovation. They should look for opportunities for improvement rather than using legal strong-arm tactics. They need to give students reason to choose their schools rather than eliminating other options.