Free Education Act of 1852

From Ian Robertson’s Reform, Literacy, and the Lease: The Prince Edward Island Free Education Act of 1852, which discusses the context of the coming of free public education to the Island (emphasis mine):

The Free Education Act of 1852 addressed the financial issue directly, for teachers were to be paid in full by the colonial treasury. This provision meant an end to reliance on two other potential sources of revenue: local assessment and tuition fees. Teachers paid under the act were specifically forbidden to demand the latter, and the former was only to be used for the erection and maintenance of school buildings, which were the responsibility of the local trustees (who were chosen by the resident householders of the district). The changes meant that after 1852 poor districts and poor children would be much less likely to be disadvantaged. In two years the number of students enrolled doubled.

In the years since we have forgotten how revolutionary an idea that free public education is and, perhaps as a result, that which falls under the banner of “free” has been allowed to gradually creep backwards: parents are now called upon to pay for everything from field trips to basic school infrastructure. The 160th anniversary of the passage of the act will, I think, provide an excellent opportunity to discuss education on Prince Edward Island and how it is paid for.


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