If the business across the street from yours, with fewer resources and higher prices, had increased its share of customers every year for 35 years, wouldn't you be curious why?
Wouldn't that interest intensify if your own customer base had shrunk in 24 of those 35 years?
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation points out that is precisely the situation B.C.'s schools find themselves in.
Enrolment at B.C. independent schools has increased every single year since 1977-78.
Public schools have only recorded student increases in 11 of those 35 years - all from 1987-88 through 1997-98. Even during that boom decade for public schools, the public system's growth badly trailed the independent system: private schools went up 71 per cent, while public school enrolment increased 27 per cent.
Market share for independent schools has nearly tripled from 4.3 per cent of all B.C. students in 1977-78 to 11.6 per cent last year, increasing every year for 35 years. And independent school families pay twice for their children's education: once through the same school taxes we all pay, and then voluntarily with tuition fees. While some are wealthy, many are middle class parents sacrificing and reprioritizing to put their children in these independent schools.
When Edmonton, led by former B.C. education deputy minister Emery Dosdall, embraced competition with independent schools and refocused the public system on student achievement by allowing parents to send their kids to any school they wanted, Time magazine called it "the most imitated and admired public school system in North America."
It's past time for B.C.'s public education champions - the minister, trustees, administrators, principals, teachers and parents - to take a thoughtful look at what is attracting so many B.C. families to independent schools. Dismissing their success is counterproductive. It makes more sense to analyze what is happening and see if there are lessons to be learned - for public school students and education in general.