How Much are we Subsidizing Private Education?

I have been actively involved lately in plenty of discussion about the public funding of private education that we do in Alberta. I don’t believe that we should be providing any public funds to private education. If you decide that the public system is not for you, that’s fine, then you should pay for it with your own funds.

A common retort that I hear is, “we pay taxes and so we should have the funding go to the school we choose.” As I am apt to do, I decided to do some math on the situation. Here is my analysis.

Every calculation involves assumptions, so I will let you know that the numbers come from the Alberta government’s projected 2016 budget and the calculations are based on an average two parent family with two average income earners and two school aged students.

Alberta will collect $11.4 billion in personal income tax in 2016 and there are an estimated 2.26 million employed Albertans. This results in an average of $5,044 in provincial income tax per employed Albertan, or $10,088 for the test family.

Let’s say that this family also owns a home, they will pay $2.48 in education property tax per $1,000 that their home is worth. The average home sold in Alberta so far this year was worth $386,000 ( So this average couple will also contribute $957 in education property tax, for a total of $11,045 in direct provincial taxes.

Education, including capital projects, amounts to 16.4% of the provincial budget ($9.8 billion out of $59.6 billion), so of this family’s $11,045 in provincial taxes, $1,811 will go to education. So, for the hypothetical family with two kids, they contribute $906 per child in taxes to their education.

An accredited private school receives $4,676 in base funding per pupil, plus $71 in Equity of Opportunity funding plus $462 in plant operations and maintenance for a total of $5,209 per student in public funding (plus a few other non-capitated grants).

Bottom line: in public funding for private schools, $906 per student comes from the parents and the other $4,303 is subsidized by the government.

An average parent’s contribution through provincial tax to the education of their child is only 5.9% of the total per pupil cost. So why are private schools getting 70% of the base instructional grant?

Jonathan Teghtmeyer's photo.
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