Education in Quebec | For level up win-win

In recent weeks, the question of Quebec’s education system has returned to the center of the media radar.

Posted at 11:00 am

Francois Delorme

Francois Delorme
Department of Economics, University of Sherbrooke

The scientific literature has largely documented the client dynamics that govern our education system. Private schools select their clients based on their academic results or by excluding, if necessary, families unable to pay school fees. In return, public schools are trying to compete with them by multiplying specially selected programs.

Result: a three-level education system in which the most beneficiaries benefit from the best learning situation, to the detriment of students from poor backgrounds or those with learning difficulties. The latter is therefore overly represented in ordinary classes, emphasizing its avoidance by teachers and families who can afford it.

To solve this structural problem of inequality, the École ensemble collective proposed a new model of its Plan for a common school network. We want to quantify the budgetary impact of the Plan.

The Plan provides that current private schools have a choice between the two states. If they decide to become private contracted schools, they will no longer be able to select their students or pay them. They will be subsidized like public schools. We recognize here the model of Finnish private schools that has been implemented since the 1970s. If, on the other hand, they choose to be non-conventioned private schools, they will be able to charge fees and select their students, but it will be done without a dollar from the taxpayers. We recognize here the Ontario model.

The closure of public funding for non-conventioned private schools will significantly change the amount of tuition fees. Few families in Quebec will send their children there after the tuition increase.

This reduction in demand is the starting point in our calculations to determine the budget impact (the additional cost or benefit) on the Plan. To estimate how many Quebec students would appear in private schools without a contract, we chose to use Ontario numbers as targets, a society comparable to ours where, as we have said, private schools not supported. In 2018-2019, 6.3% of students in this province are attending private schools, including 6.7% in secondary and 6% in elementary.

Subsidized private students now represent a cost for the State. As a result, stopping subsidizing students outside the common network could generate savings. It remains to be seen whether these savings involved in the non -convention pay for the additional costs associated with the convention.

Our study showed that 49.4% of the 119,932 elementary and secondary students in the current private sector participate in the common network.

By stopping subsidizing private schools not under the 2018-2019 agreement, the Quebec government could save $ 513 million.

On the other hand, education -related spending on students moving from the existing private network to the common network would generate an additional cost of 414 million.

These results suggest that in the long term, the common network could save nearly $ 100 million per year for the Quebec treasury.

This amount could be even higher if a larger proportion of students remain in a non-conventioned private school.

These results are interesting, because we often think of economic issues as a trade-off between equity and efficiency. In other words, we expect the promotion of equality rhymes with a budget deficit for the State. However, our results suggest that this should not happen.

In addition, our analysis does not consider the long-term benefits, social but also economic, of a more equitable society, where the school system that promotes equal opportunities is an important pillar.

As the world famous economist Thomas Piketty recently reminded us: “The most important for economic prosperity is education and relative equality of education”.

This is a huge opportunity for Québec, as the proposed reform seems to have nothing to do with the compromise between the promotion of fairness and financial efficiency, which nonetheless avoids some decisions in an attitude of economy.

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