As a parent of three, I know how exciting it is for families when a new school year starts. Along with the smell of fall leaves in the air, there are new backpacks, supplies, schools and classrooms, and optimism for the start of another year of learning.
At the same time, many parents suffer shock when they find themselves forced to open their cheque books to pay for mandatory school fees. They have different names and are often craftily disguised as registration, textbook or instructional fees, to name a few.
Mandatory school fees are fees associated with attending school – like photocopying, lunch time supervision or using a locker. Costs for additional activities like field trips, extra-curricular programs and transportation are over and above these mandatory fees.
Depending on where a family lives, these can cost up to $300 per child, and in families with several children in school, it adds up fast.
These mandatory school fees are a hidden tax and an undue financial burden on parents, who already work hard and pay taxes to fund education in our province.
The core of the problem lies at the feet of the PC government. School boards are constantly squeezed for funding, and they are forced to look to parents to cover their shortfall.
This is unfair to parents, who are already facing high costs associated with raising young and growing families. Public education isn’t free – Albertans are already paying for it through their taxes.
I believe Alberta parents deserve to keep more, not less, of their hard-earned money. The PC government needs to stop nickel-and-diming parents and look for ways to make life more affordable for Alberta families.
A Wildrose government would ensure that parents do not have to pay mandatory school fees to send their kids to public, Catholic or public charter schools.
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We’ve stood by this for years.
We understand that Alberta families are a primary source of our province’s energy and economic strength.
And if you’re wondering if it makes sense to scrap school fees while the province continues to run a deficit and borrow billions of dollars, let me give you some perspective.
Just over a month ago, the PC government found an extra $55 million to hand out to high level managers and PC staff. That’s about the same cost as putting an end to mandatory school fees.
Imagine if we had a government that used resources based on the priorities of families.
Instead, we’ve seen hundreds of millions spent on corporate welfare and government pet projects like the Premier’s penthouse suite, otherwise known as “Skypalace”. We’ve seen eye-popping sole sourced contracts landing in the laps of PC party donors, when an open-bidding process would have fetched Albertans a far better deal. We’ve seen sweetheart severance deals for political staffers when our school boards are strapped for cash.
Setting clear, transparent goals and living up to your promises shouldn’t be that hard.
We’ve set up a petition at wildrose.ca/endmandatoryfees where families can tell the government how they really feel about this hidden tax.
Together, I believe we can finally put an end to having to take a dip out of our bank accounts every September.
Wildrose Education Critic
MLA, Chestermere-Rocky View