Sask. Catholic school boards looking to fund appeal of Theodore decision

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All eight of Saskatchewan's Catholic school boards are looking to raise funds for an appeal against a Court of Queen's Bench decision earlier this year which ruled the province cannot fund non-Catholic students to attend Catholic schools. 

Together, the province's Catholic school boards are looking to raise $300,000, according to Tom Fortosky, executive director of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association. 

Fortosky said there had been $19,354 raised for a challenge prior to the official fundraising campaign by the school boards. The remaining $280,000 would be divided up among the eight Catholic school boards at the rate of $7 per student. There are about 40,000 students within the province's Catholic schools. 

"We feel budgets are already tight and school divisions, students and teachers are in a situation where taking money to fund this [out of operating budgets] would hurt the classrooms," said Rob Bresciani, chair of Regina Catholic Schools.

"So, we decided we wanted to take this to the public and try to fund it through a fundraising effort." 

Regina Catholic Schools currently has about 11,800 students enrolled within the city's Catholic schools. They're looking to raise about $70,000 for the fund, a spokesperson said. The Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools said in a statement on its website that the school board would raise its share of $140,000.

"What we've done is basically portioned out the dollars," said Diane Boyko, chair of GSCS. "We intend to hear with the appeal that [the decision] would be overturned."

Province invokes clause

In April, Justice Donald Layh ruled that funding "non-minority faith students" to attend Catholic schools was a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the province's duty to practice religious neutrality. The decision would take affect in June 2018.

The decision was appealed by both the province and the SCSBA. 

The decision stems from the Good Spirit School Division filing a lawsuit against the Christ the Teacher Roman Catholic Separate School Division, after a Catholic school opened in Theodore, Sask. in 2003. 

The GSSD argued that the constitutional protection of Catholic schools does not include the right for those schools to receive government funding for non–Catholic students.

Earlier this month, the provincial government invoked the Charter's notwithstanding clause with allows the province to create laws that will operate in spite of (or "notwithstanding") some charter rights that the laws appear to violate.

"It takes away the right of the parent to choose the education that they feel is best for their child," Bresciani said.

"The parent is the first line of education and their right to choose — [the decision] would take that away."

The province estimated as many as 10,000 students would be taken out of the separate school system and placed into the public system if the decision is upheld.