Policy advocacy, inequity, and school fees and fundraising in Ontario, Canada
Keywords:school fundraising, school fees, Ontario, policy, advocacy, rhetoric
Fundraising and collecting fees are ubiquitous in Ontario, Canada’s public schools. Critics assert that these practices perpetuate and exacerbate inequities between schools and communities. In this article we present findings from a critical policy analysis of an advocacy group’s efforts to change Ontario’s fees and fundraising policies over the past two decades. Rhetorical analyses of 110 texts finds that the group constructed the problem of each policy similarly, targeted the same audiences, and utilized many of the same strategies to appeal to logos, ethos, and pathos in their struggle over the policies’ meanings. However, only one out of four of the group’s policy meanings became dominant. The discursive and critical policy perspectives grounding the study directed us to examine how neoliberalism and the policies’ shared broader social, political, and economic contexts can help explain this outcome. Specifically, the group’s efforts to change Ontario’s school fees and fundraising policies confronted dominant discourses that construct parents as consumers of education and responsible for their children’s success in a competitive world, promote the meritocratic notion that successful people deserve their success and the benefits it brings, view the government as responsible only for providing the basic requirements of education, and support privatization and marketization of public schools.