Choice in Education Act avoids voucher system but raises two areas of concern
The UCP government’s Choice in Education Act does very little to improve education for the vast majority of students in Alberta, says Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling.
On May 28 the UCP government introduced Bill 15 — the Choice in Education Act — which affirms that “parents have the right to choose the kind of education they feel will be best for their children.”
Schilling said the majority of the bill has little impact on the education system as a whole, but he did flag two areas of concern: the removal of school board oversight of charter school applications and the approval of unsupervised home schooling.
“Unsupervised home education should be a concern to all Albertans. A child’s right to a quality education must not be sacrificed in the name of parental choice,” Schilling said.
Schilling said that home education should be subject to accountability and oversight by public boards or private operators, and public boards should still have the option to adopt a program of choice before a charter school is established.
Under the proposed changes, those wishing to establish a charter school would go directly to the minister of education rather than consulting the public school board where they intend to set up operation.
“School choice and the freedom of parents to direct their kids’ education is not a policy preference; it is a fundamental human right,” said Premier Jason Kenney at a news conference prior to the legislation being tabled.
Schilling said he is pleased the legislation does not introduce a voucher system for private schools and said expanding school choice must never come at the expense of public education.
Along with the bill, the government released survey results showing 62 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the amount of educational choice available in the province.
Schilling noted that parents already have plenty of educational choice, and 93 per cent of Alberta’s students attend a public, separate or francophone school.
“We believe that parents and teachers want to see those students supported most,” he said.
The bill proposes several changes to the Education Act and, if passed, will take effect Sept. 1. ❚