For Isagani Cruz, a Catholic of Filipino descent, the decision to send his three children to an independent school was easy.
The harder part is paying the bills. Tuition at Our Lady of Mercy, in Burnaby, costs $230/month for his daughter in grade 7. And tuition at St. Thomas Moore Collegiate, also in Burnaby, costs $665/month for his son, in grade 10. (An older daughter who is now at university graduated from the same school three years ago.)
As a warehouse supervisor, Cruz says that the monthly bills take a big bite out of his paycheque.
It helps a little that Cruz’s wife, Evans, works full time — as an accounts receivable employee — and she also holds a part-time job at Superstore as a clerk. The benefit of the Superstore job? It gives the family 10% off on their groceries — no small matter when every penny counts.
But Cruz doesn’t resent having to pay for school. He grew up in the Philippines, going to an independent school as a child himself and knew he wanted what he describes as “more of a family-oriented approach.”
He and his children especially appreciate the regular church-associated activities including weekly Mass, Bible studies and prayer that couldn’t occur in the public school system. “Being Catholic for us is number one,” he says.
He is quick to correct anyone who suggests that you have to be rich to go to an independent school. “You don’t have to be wealthy,” he says. “It’s a matter of how you set your priorities.
We don’t own a house, but we value our kids’ education, so we put more funding into that.
We struggle at times, but that’s just how it is”.
He says his kids appreciate what their parents are trying to do for them and work hard to get good grades. They also accept the need for minimal vacations.
If the government were to cut funding to independent schools, leading to an inevitable doubling of fees, Cruz says the result would be deeply ironic: “If they stopped [the funding] that’s when only wealthy people would be able to go to independent schools.”
As it stands now, however, Cruz is prepared to forgo a free tuition for his kids, and instead, pay 50% of the cost to get a Catholic education. “It’s important to us to be surrounded by people we know, kids we know and in an environment where we share the same values. It gives us greater peace of mind.”