Cardus makes the case for school choice


HAMILTON, September 4, 2014 — Fresh North American data and a provocative new research paper from an esteemed Ontario academic clinch the argument for making school choice a key part of educational policy for the public good.

"The data suggest that in learning to respect and get along with other people, the graduates of non-public schools are doing better in adult life than the graduates of public schools," Cardus executive vice president Ray Pennings recently told an audience in Calgary. "When we welcome them all and learn from each other, taking the best practices across the board and allowing the marketplace of choice to drive innovation in our education system, we will see improvement for all."

His comments came during a public debate with Alberta Liberal MLA Kent Hehr, who is campaigning for an end to all taxpayer funding of non-public schools in the province. Pennings said data from Hamilton-based think tank Cardus shows it's the wrong policy choice.

The political and policy implications of the Cardus argument are set out in a research paper, Toward a Warmer Climate for Ontario's Private Schools, by Derek J. Allison, emeritus professor in the education faculty at Western University. Allison reaches back 30 years to the Shapiro commission on private schools in Ontario to buttress the case for education choice being considered a primary public good.

Download the paper at

"It is time for Ontario's schools to be brought in from the cold," Allison writes. "Almost three decades have passed since the provincial Commission charged with looking into their future presented its report, but nothing of importance has been done."

He notes that, contrary to recommendations in the Shapiro report, punitive fees have been piled onto non-government schools—including those that actually work against students meeting the standards of Ontario’s Secondary School Diploma.

Allison’s research says this is part of an entrenched pattern with the province’s education bureaucracy to diminish the role of non-government schools—religious and non-religious—as good alternatives to the public system. He notes that there are only eight government officials overseeing more than 1000 private schools, compared with 73 professional staff in leadership of Ontario’s French Language schools, which enrol fewer students than the private schools.

Cardus’ Ray Pennings says such attitudes work directly against the public good of school choice.

"We have the numbers, and the numbers show that private schools serve the public good," Pennings says. "Whether in the U.S. or Canada, they make positive contributions to well-educated and engaged future citizens.

On September 10 in New York City, Cardus and its colleagues at Notre Dame University will release the third in a series of studies showing the public benefits of both religious and non-religious private schools of social capital formation, academic performance, economic advantage, gender equality, and civic engagement.

The latest study, to be showcased at City University of New York (CUNY) and conducted under the auspices of the Cardus Religious Schools Initiative at the University of Notre Dame, indicates:

  • Private religious schools do better at fostering diversity, tolerance, and lasting relationships among students.
    • Students in private religious schools are well prepared for the work force, have strong familial ties and lower divorce rates, and a relative equality between the genders in terms of employability.
    • Religious schools appear to be doing well with civic education producing results comparable to the public schools.
    • The findings further confirm 2011 U.S. research conducted by Cardus, and mirror the think tank’s 2012 Canadian data. Find more information at

Topics: Education, Policy


Cardus is a non-partisan, not-for-profit public policy think tank focused on the following areas: education, family, work & economics, communities, end-of-life care, and religious freedom. It conducts independent and original research, produces several periodicals, and regularly stages events with Senior Fellows and interested constituents across Canada and the U.S.