Government tables Bill 1 to reduce school fees

by Morinville News Staff

The Government of Alberta tabled Bill 1: An Act to Reduce School Fees Thursday. If passed, Alberta parents will no longer have to pay school fees for instructional supplies or materials or for eligible students taking the bus to their designated schools.

The province says the two fees cost families more than $50 million each year, and account for approximately 25 per cent of the total fees charged to parents.

If proclaimed, Bill 1 will amend the School Act and create new school fees prior to the 2017/18 school year.

The province intends to consult parents and school boards further, but it will set a clear definition for instructional supplies or materials. Included in this category would be charges for:

textbooks
workbooks
photocopying
printing or paper supplies

“Two years ago, our government ran on a platform commitment to reduce the burden of school fees on Alberta families,” said Premier Rachel Notley. “The introduction of Bill 1 follows through on that commitment. Our government cares about your family and your pocketbook. We understand that times are tough, and we’re doing what we can to improve the lives of Albertans.”

David Eggen, Minister of Education, added his government believes in a publicly funded education system. “[S]chool fees should not be a barrier to kids getting a good start in life, no matter their circumstance.”

Shortly after Thursday’s announcement the Alberta School Boards Association said it welcomed the governments efforts to reduce school fees but cautioned that approach must be equitable, adequate and not take away from local community decision-making.

“The Government of Alberta’s proposed Bill 1 legislation to cover the cost of school fees is good news for parents and something school boards across the province have been pressing government to do for years,” said Mary Martin, ASBA President.

“No school board wants to charge extra fees to run buses, pay for books or support programs. But up until now, the provincial government was unwilling to fund those extra costs. We are pleased they have responded to our calls to relieve parents of this burden.”

Martin believes for Bill 1to be effective, the funding that comes with it must be adequate and applied equitably across all schools boards because rural and urban schools boards rely on school fees to subsidize student learning.

“Parents, teachers and school board trustees at the local level are in the best position to decide how to support student learning. It would be a disaster if Bill 1 took that decision-making power away from local communities,” Martin said.

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