NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Ontario Gets Tax Credits For School Choice

July 13, 2001

Parents in Canada's Ontario province can now get a tax credit for sending their children to private schools. The breakthrough -- called far more radical than anything yet seen in the U.S. -- is due to Ontario's premier, Mike Harris.

His efforts prevailed over the usual arguments -- that private schools would lead to social breakdown and ethnic segregation, that they would undermine public schools and that they would escape regulation by education bureaucrats.

But parents who were fed up with the public schools supported him.

  • The tax credit will rise over five years in steps of C$700 each -- equal to $460US -- to C$3,500, or half the cost to the province of keeping a child in a public school.
  • Ontario now has 730 private schools -- half of which are linked to a church, synagogue or mosque.
  • Although six other Canadian provinces provide money directly to private schools, the Harris plan gives the money directly to parents.

The Harris plan received support from an unlikely source -- the United Nations.

Several Jewish and Christian groups complained to the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. They argued that a constitutional provision whereby Catholic schools received provincial funds was discriminatory. In its 1999 ruling, the commission agreed.

Source: "Education in Canada: Ontario Tries School Vouchers," Economist, June 30, 2001.


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