OPINION – Oppose Motion 504, phase out funding for private schools, and end the charter school experiment

Public Interest Alberta
News release

Public Interest Alberta Executive Director Joel French called on MLAs and government to reject MLA Rick McIver’s Motion 504, and instead to end provincial funding for private schools and absorb charter schools into the province’s school boards.

“Mr. McIver’s motion calls on the government to affirm its support for private and charter schools, but it is time to concentrate scarce public funds on supporting public education in our public, separate, and francophone school boards,” said French. “We need to direct public funding to schools that operate under democratically elected school boards, which operate with public accountability and transparency of expenditures, rather than to private entities with private agendas.”

“Private schools have a right to exist, but not to receive public funding,” French stated.

“Last year the Alberta government gave over $200 million in public funds to private schools. These are difficult financial times, and that same sum of money could have been used to eliminate school fees for all parents across the province, provide school lunch programs for children living in poverty throughout Alberta, or pay for much-needed programs to support indigenous learners.”

French pointed out that Alberta’s school boards were on record as supporting this direction, with the Alberta School Boards’ Association having passed a formal motion in November 2013 calling on the government to reallocate to public education funding currently given to private schools, in order to better build “a viable, sustainable public education system.”

In terms of Alberta’s charter schools, French called for the government to end the experiment and bring the schools fully into the public education system.

“Charter schools were introduced early in the Klein era with the promise that they would promote innovation and provide competition for the public system. Two decades later there are still only thirteen charter schools. They haven’t delivered on that promise, and no other provinces have gone in this direction because charter schools are not necessary or helpful.”

French pointed out that Alberta has been recognized for developing a culture of school improvement across the province through the former Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI), and charter schools are simply not needed.

“Alberta has a well-developed system of support for alternative schools and programs within our public and separate schools, and Edmonton Public Schools in particular has demonstrated how to accommodate legitimate desires for choice and diversity within the public system. It is clearly time for charter schools to be absorbed by school boards as part of the public education system, or to become private schools.”

French concluded, “The province’s daunting financial difficulties make it more essential than ever to put public funds in the places where they will do the most good. Our public school systems are stretched to the limit, and Alberta’s government needs to make a clear commitment to strengthening public education by rejecting Mr. McIver’s motion and ending support for private and charter schools.”

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