Above: Premier Jason Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange speak about the Choice in Education Act. GOA Photo
The UCP says Bill Bill 15, the Choice in Education Act, would amend the Education Act to affirm a parents’ right to choose the kind of education they feel is best for their children, and strengthen Alberta’s history of education choice. That choice includes public and separate schools, Francophone schools, charter schools, independent schools, home education and early childhood education.
“We committed to Albertans that our government would introduce a Choice in Education Act to affirm that parents have the primary right to choose the education their children receive,” Premier Jason Kenney said in a release Thursday. “Parents, not politicians, know what is best for their kids, and our government is committed to delivering an excellent, world-class education that will equip them for life.”
If passed, Bill 15 will create more options for parents to deliver home education to their children as well as allow the creation of charter schools that expressly focus on vocation-based education.
“We are committed to offering a number of education options that allow parents to select the path they feel will best help their children reach their full potential,” said Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange. “I am proud to say that Alberta is the leader in choice available to families, and provides parents with more opportunities for their children’s education than anywhere else in Canada.”
Simon Williams, president of the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Albertasays Alberta’s choice-based school system is recognized as being a world leader in providing high-quality education.
“The Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta welcomes the introduction of the Choice in Education Act, which provides further legislative clarity and recognition of the diverse learning options within the system and affirms the integral role of parents as the primary decision-makers in their children’s education,” Williams said.
But not everyone sees the proposed Bill as a win. Public Interest Alberta (PIA) is calling the Bill a big win for private and wealthy interests, a loss for the rest of Albertans.
PIA say the changes represent a further fragmentation of the province’s delivery of education, arguing the changes come as funding cuts continue to devastate public schools.
“This legislation is a great victory for private and wealthy interests, which clearly have a steadfast ally in this government,” said PIA Executive Director Joel French. “Unfortunately, the hundreds of millions of dollars the government is committed to spending on subsidizing private schools comes at the expense of the more than 90 per cent of Alberta families who send their children to public schools, where that funding is sorely needed.”
PIA believe Albertans need to ask who Bill 15’s choice is designed for.
“The reality is that most Alberta families choose Public, Catholic, or Francophone school systems that are accountable to publicly elected school boards and are open to all students. This legislation is about the government imposing an ideological market agenda that benefits a privileged few over the interests of everyone else.”
PIA says public, Catholic, and francophone school systems need to be the government’s top priority in terms of focus and funding.
“Class sizes in public schools continue to get larger and supports for children with complex needs are lacking more than ever, yet this government’s priority is to affirm its funding to private interests,” French said. “It could not be clearer that this government’s ideology is trumping the interests of most Albertans, which would be building the strongest possible public education system that is open to everyone.”
Highlights of the Choice in Education Act:
• Amends the preamble of the Education Act to include recognition of Section 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”
• Protects parental choice while ensuring a strong public education system by indicating support for all types of schooling.
• Supports the creation of new charter schools, including vocation-focused charter schools.
Protects the status and funding of independent schools.
• Provides new options for parents who choose to home-school their children.
If passed, Bill 15 will come into force on Sept. 1, 2020.