14: TAX IMPACT OF CHANGING PUBLIC SCHOOL ENROLMENT (April 26, 2016)

From: Julee Kaye
Sent: April-26-16

To: ‘educ.minister@gov.bc.ca’; ‘mike.lombardi@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘allan.wong@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘Janet.fraser@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘fraser.ballantyne@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘christopher.richardson@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘patti.bacchus@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘joy.alexander@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘penny.noble@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘stacy.robertson@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘david.eby.MLA@leg.bc.ca’; ‘andrew.wilkinson.MLA@leg.bc.ca’;
‘communications@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘nbrennan@vsb.bc.ca’; ‘jpearce@vsb.bc.ca’;
‘jstewart@vsb.bc.ca’

To VSB’s trustees & Superintendents, our Minister of Education, and my local
MLAs:

Originally I wrote you with the assumption that maintaining or even increasing the percentage of children using public schools was a desirable outcome, but one of Vancouver’s school trustees believes that increasing public school enrolment “would increase our taxes hugely”.

Fortunately, it is a simple matter to estimate the potential size of that tax increase. It is not what most people would call “huge”. Whether or not that very small increase in total taxes is worthwhile is too important to be decided amongst ourselves. It should be a matter of informed public discourse.

Let us here calculate the tax cost of restoring public school enrolment to the level it held in 2001 when the current Liberal government was elected. Since that time, private school enrolment in BC has grown from 60,000 students to 80,200 students while the total number of school children in BC has fallen from 667,400 students to 615,500 (in round numbers; data from FISA BC, see note 1). The percentage of BC children in private schools has therefore increased from 9% to 13%. To restore BC public schools to the 91% “market share” of students that they held in 2001 would require the return of 25,000 students to public schools from private schools (a 31% reduction in current private school enrolment).

How much would that transfer of students to public schools increase BC government costs?

1. What proportion of private school students are in religious schools?

Using data provided by FISA BC, it appears that about 71% of private school students in BC are attending religious schools and 29% are in other schools (2). So to find the total cost of returning 25,000 students to public schools, we need to calculate the net cost of transfering 17,800 religious school students and 7,100 other private school students to public schools.

2. What is the total cost of returning the religious school students to public schools?

Because students in religious schools already receive half of the government funding given to public school students, and because their parents appear to also be able to claim tax deductions for their school fees, I have estimated before (messages 11 and 13) that taxpayers see a net savings of only $150 for each child that transfers from public school to a religious school. This is also the net cost that taxpayers would see for each child that transfers in the other direction. $150 for each of 17,800 children creates a total cost of $2,671,000 if this many children return from religious schools to public schools (3).

3. What is the total cost of returning the other private school students to public schools?

Students in other private schools receive only 35% of the $7,166 government funding that will be provided for public school students next year. So if 7,100 students were to return to public school from these private schools, taxpayers would have to pay the additional 65% funding beyond what they currently pay for these students. 65% of $7,166 for each of 7,100 students is a total cost of $33,213,000 if this many children return from non-religious private schools to public schools.

4. How much would those costs increase personal income taxes in BC?

As a worst case scenario, we will assume that all of the increased costs have to be met from personal income taxes. As calculated above, the public cost of returning 25,000 current private school students to public schools would be $2,671,000 for the students coming from religious schools and $33,213,000 for the student coming from other private schools,for a total of $35,884,000. This is equivalent to 0.43% of the total $8,376,000,000 that the BC government expects to receive in personal income tax revenue this year (4).

In other words, if the entire public cost of returning 31% of current private school students to public schools were to be covered by an increase in personal income tax in BC, it would necessitate an increase in the provincial income tax rate of less than half a percent. Our hypothetical parent Votee McVoter, who earns $200,000/year, would see her taxes increase by $98 representing a 0.14% increase in her total federal and provincial tax bill. That is, BC taxpayers could expect to see their total personal income taxes increase by 14 cents for every $100 they currently pay in income taxes.

Is it fair to call an increase of 14 cents for every $100 of current income tax a “huge” increase? No. However, it is nonetheless an increase. WHETHER IT IS WORTH PAYING THIS MUCH FOR A MORE EQUITABLE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM SHOULD BE A MATTER OF INFORMED PUBLIC DEBATE!!

Note that these same calculations reveal the trivial tax savings that were gained when BC public school enrolment fell from 91% of all BC school children in 2001 to 87% in 2014-15 – a change which is equivalent to the loss of 25,000 students that would otherwise be in public schools today. That is likely enough students to solve the excess capacity” problems plaguing school boards across the province.

I have personally seen many families transfer to private schools over that period of time. The minority of them are parents who always expected to choose private schools for their children. The majority, however, resorted to private schools only out of concern that their children’s needs were going unmet in our apparently deteriorating public schools. Their choice is a direct indictment of our current public school system.

To save just 14 cents on every $100 of personal income tax, we have been giving up equal access to education and putting additional financial strain on more families – parents and grandparents – who would all have been much better off had public schools been adequately funded to shoulder the duty of properly educating their children.

Please support public education!! Give us back a school system of which we can be proud.

Sincerely,
Julee Kaye
(Concerned Parent from QEA, JQ, General Gordon, Kerrisdale, Kitsilano & soon Point Grey)

1) Please note that here and below, numbers have been rounded for the reader’s convenience. Federation of Independent Schools of BC data at:
http://fisabc.ca/sites/default/files/Enrolment%20Ind%20Public%20Comparison%202015.pdf
2) Data at
http://fisabc.ca/sites/default/files/Enrolment%20by%20Assoc.%20Historical%202015.pdf. The total number of students in religious schools was estimated here as the sum of all students in the Association of Christian Schools International in BC, all students in the Catholic Independent Schools of BC, all students in the Society of Christian Schools in BC, and half the students in the Associate Member Group which appears to include all other religious schools (including Protestant, Jewish and Sikh) as well as Waldorf, Montessori and special needs schools. This suggests a total of 57,200 students in religious private schools and 22,900 in all other private schools. Associate Member Group schools represent only about ¼ of all the private school students (20,000 students), which limits the potential error of the assumption that they are equally split between religious and other schools. Further explanation may be found at:
http://fisabc.ca/who-are-we/about-bc-independent-schools
3) This simplified calculation neglects to consider that when parents deduct religious school tuition fees, the federal government portion of the revenue shortfall must be covered by all Canadian taxpayers collectively and not just by BC taxpayers.
4) See page 16 of http://bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2016/bfp/2016_budget_and_fiscal_plan.pdf