The cost of a defensible foundation program for public elementary and secondary schools in the province of Saskatchewan
McLaren, Kenneth Stuart
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The prime requisite of a democratic country is an adequately educated people. If democracy is to continue to thrive it is essential that every child in the country be given an equal educational opportunity, regarless of the section of the country in which he happens to reside. The system of public education that has been developed in Saskatchewan, as elsewhere in Canada, provides for a division of responsibilities for the support of schools between the Province and the local community. This system, whereby educational costs are met in part by provincial funds and in part by local funds, can fulfil the prime requisite of democracy only if an equitable fiscal arrangement operates between the Province and the local community. In pioneer times, when economic resources were distributed relatively evenly and the need for an expanded educational offering was less keenly felt, the working out of an equitable fiscal arrangement between central authorities and local authorities was not a serious problem. In modern times, however, with tremendous variation in taxable wealth among communities and with an increasing public demand for an expanded program of education, the equitable support of schools has become a major concern of school administrators. If the major share of the cost of education is borne by the local community, the kind of education a child receives is determined largely by the economic resources of the community in which the child resides. Such a system of school support results in inequality of local tax burden and inequality of educational opportunity. Since education is the responsibility of the Province as a whole, the Province is obliged, therefore, to guard against such inequalities by providing fiscally weak communities with sufficient funds to ensure the offering of an adequate minimum educational program. Considerable progress has been made in Saskatchewan in equalizing educational opportunity and local tax burden. The organization of larger units of administration and the distribution of provincial funds by means of equalization grants have operated jointly to produce a greater degree of equality. However, true equalization of educational opportunity and local tax burden can be achieved only the implementation of a plan of provincial support based upon the following requirements: (a) a minimum or foundation program defensible before the people of the Province as a whole, (b) the objective measurement of local ability to pay, (c) the objective measurement of local educational need, and (d) a uniform local effort. The problems associated with the development of such a plan can be solved only through a complete investigation of school finances throughout the Province. The study here reported was an attempt to solve these problems.