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Saskatchewan’s Catholic school boards to appeal ruling on funding

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The Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association says it will appeal a judge's decision to ban funding non-Catholic students in Catholic schools.

The ruling released last week said the province can't provide Catholic schools funding for students who aren't Catholic.

Association spokesman Tom Fortosky says there have been a lot of concerns from parents and adds funding will not be received for non-Catholics if the appeal is lost in court.

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The association plans to file its appeal within one month.

It could not provide an exact number of non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools.

Justice Donald Layh ruled that provincial government funding of non-minority faith students attending separate schools infringes on religious neutrality and equality rights.

The dispute started in 2003 when the Yorkdale School Division, now Good Spirit School Division, closed down its kindergarten-to-Grade 8 school in the town of Theodore because of declining enrolment.

The division planned to bus its 42 students to the community of Springside, 17 kilometres away.

In response, a local group created its own Catholic school division and opened St. Theodore Roman Catholic School.

That prompted Good Spirit School Division to launch a lawsuit claiming the creation of the new school division was not to serve Catholics in the community, but rather to prevent the students from being bused to a neighbouring town.

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Fortosky said the Constitution gives Catholics the right to operate a school system with accordance of Catholic values and beliefs.

"We believe that this includes the right to have an inclusive and welcoming admittance policy consistent with the church's ecumenical efforts since the Second Vatican Council."

Premier Brad Wall said this week that the ruling cannot stand and the province will see what can be done to successfully manoeuvre around it.

The premier raised concerns that the ruling means thousands of students could be forced to switch schools and that the viability of some community schools could be at risk.

But Public Schools of Saskatchewan called Wall's comments disappointing, saying any disruption caused by students moving from separate schools "is a product of the unilateral decision of Catholic schools to admit those students."

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