by Alan Echenberg Friday September 21, 2007

The debate over faith-based school funding has come to dominate the Ontario election campaign.

But it is not a new debate.

In 1984, shortly before he retired as premier, Bill Davis announced his government was reversing a long-standing policy, and would extend full funding to separate Roman Catholic schools, which - at that point - were only funded up until grade 10.

It was a controversial decision. Some say it may have cost Davis's successor, Frank Miller, the 1985 election.

At the time of the announcement, Davis appointed Bernard Shapiro - then director of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education - as a one-man Royal Commission to investigate private schools in Ontario.

Shapiro's final report came out the following year, when David Peterson's Liberals were in power. He recommended that if Catholic schools were funded, other private schools should be funded, too.

Sound familiar?

The report was shelved. Our political party leaders are debating the issue anew in 2007.

Shapiro went on to become Ontario's Deputy Minister of Education, the Principal of McGill University and, most recently, federal ethics commissioner.

He will appear on the program tonight to offer his historical perspective on an issue that has become so prominent in the current election campaign.

For even more historical perspective, please click on the Video button below to view a documentary on the history of full-funding for Catholic education in Ontario. The documentary was put together by TVO producer Erica Balch and first aired on Studio 2 in 2004, on the 20th anniversary of Bill Davis's announcement.

Video Resource: Studio 2 Documentary - A History of Ontario Education Funding video button