(Feb. 20, 2018) Equal funding for religious education will save Albertans $530 million a year

(Feb. 20, 2018) Equal funding for religious education will save Albertans $530 million a year

—Catholic Church asked to subsidize Catholic students for Budget 2019

Edmonton — ourIDEA (Inclusive, Diverse Education for All), a fast-growing citizen coalition calling for the amalgamation of Catholic and public schools, today asks the Alberta government to fund the operational costs of Catholic schools at the same level as all other religious schools in the province.

Currently, private non-Catholic religious schools in Alberta receive only 70 percent of provincial per pupil funding that a Catholic school receives. If Catholic schools received the same level of subsidy as all other religious schools in Alberta, Albertans would save $530 million dollars annually to redirect towards the provincial deficit or hire 5,300 more teachers for the public school system.

To use another comparator, if Alberta funded its Catholic schools at 50 percent of per pupil funding — the same level as in British Columbia — Alberta taxpayers would save a staggering $880 Million dollars annually to redirect towards the provincial deficit or to hire an army of 8,880 more teachers for the public school system.

Savings of this magnitude are entirely achievable if all religions were simply treated equally by our provincial government.  But since the Catholic Church benefits enormously by the current preferential system, it is only reasonable to ask them to infill provincial subsidy shortfalls for Catholic families.

“There is no logical or moral justification for Alberta taxpayers to subsidize one religious school system above all others to waste $550 million a year,” says Kenn Bur, a volunteer with ourIDEA .  “In this time of compassionate belt tightening, with class sizes growing, special needs students struggling and a provincial budget deficit in excess of $10 billion, we all have to contribute extra. It’s time for the Catholic Church to begin contributing financially to its own religious education system.

“Religious entitlement costs Alberta taxpayers $550 million/year — in addition to enormous unnecessary capital costs to maintain duplicate infrastructure,” says Bur.  “By simply treating all religious schools equally, we could pay down our provincial deficit and avoid the likelihood of a provincial sales tax in the future.”


The data that Our IDEA analysts used for these comparisons is from publicly available audited financial statements provided by Catholic school boards in 2017.  These financial reports reveal that Albertans spent $1.77 billion last year to operate a duplicate educational system consisting of 17 separate Catholic school boards.





Catholic School


Catholic Church Contribution


Same funding as Alberta public schools


$1.77 billion



Same funding as all other religious schools in Alberta

$530 million / year

$1.24 billion

$3,270/year per student (or $272.50/month)


Same funding level as BC’s Catholic schools

$880 million / year

 $0.89 billion

$5,450/year per student (or $454.17/month)



* Our IDEA welcomes any factual corrections. We also ask the Province of Alberta for a comprehensive and transparent audit of all annual subsidies to Catholic schools in Alberta.



Showing 3 reactions

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  • Diane Martel
  • Kenn Bur
    Hello Sara. You are correct that the total number of students were tallied. If Catholic education is truly valued as much as other religious schools that are not fully subsidized, one would assume that the cost would be equally acceptable. And the cost to subsidize Catholic education would affordably less than the average annual childcare cost for a pre-kindergarten student.

    It is also worth noting that British Columbia has private Catholic schools that are flourishing with 50 per cent funding, so what is different about Catholic education in Alberta that obliges our taxpayers to pay 100 per cent (i.e. an $880 million/year premium)?

    Here is the bottom-line: if the parents of Catholic students or the Catholic church is not willing to pay for subsidized religious education, as all other religions do, it only further begs the question as to why Alberta taxpayers (nearly 80 percent of whom are not Catholic) are paying for a duplicate school system to entitle one religion — and discriminate against all other religions.

    Thank for your interest. I encourage you to review the six arguments outlined here (http://www.ouridea.ca/objection) and sign our petition.
  • Sara Peden
    On my screen I can’t see the end of the right hand column, so I can’t see if you listed the number of students but by division, it looks like you are assuming 162-163,000 students. How many of them would you assume might leave Catholic education and enrol in public schools in your calculation? It is certainly unlikely that the Catholic Church would subsidize the non-Catholic children who currently attend Catholic schools, so at the very least, many of them would move. Is that accounted for in your numbers? Is there any evidence that the Catholic church would in fact subsidize public education in Canada? If not (and I think it’s likely they would not) the Catholic board would need to start charging parents fees to make up for lost provincial funding. How would you estimate how many would be both willing and able to shoulder those costs? These numbers seem highly inflated, either way.