A UCP constituency’s proposal of an education voucher system that would see private schools fully funded is drawing criticism from ATA president Jason Schilling. Policy 15, which will be voted on at the 2019 UCP annual general meeting, which takes place in Calgary from Nov. 29–Dec. 1, seeks to implement an education voucher system.
Schilling says the proposed amendment, which comes from the Lacombe–Ponoka constituency, would produce inequities across the province.
“Alberta’s public education system already supports 95 per cent of Alberta students in Catholic, Francophone and public schools,” he said, “and the budget has already been gutted, resulting in larger class sizes and fewer teachers.”
The wording in the 2018 policy document states “The United Conservative Party believes that the Government of Alberta should ensure equitable per-student funding in accordance with school choice — public, separate, charter, home or private.” The additional proposal seeks to add “implement an education ‘voucher system’ that will provide for equal per-student funding regardless of their school choice, free from caveats or conditions.”
However, Schilling says the move is the opposite of equity in education.
“The voucher system promotes boutique education in urban areas,” he said. “Public education is built on the premise that no matter what a parent’s income is, what their religious beliefs are or how smart the student is, everybody is welcome.”
Although the policy’s rationale states the voucher system would be cost-neutral, Schilling says that’s an impossible claim.
“Private schools are already funded at 70 per cent,” he said. “Where is the other 30 going to come from? Why would we further decimate public education to serve the small, self-selected elite?”
The policy’s rationale also says Alberta Education “no longer provides curricula that give students adequate English/French literacy, mathematical literacy, scientific literacy or historical literacy.” It goes on to say that “students are entering adulthood unemployable and increasingly radicalized by extremist ideologies.”
It’s a statement that Schilling finds to be ironic.
“If this government was serious about improving the learning experience of school-age Albertans, it would have properly funded public education, which is led by democratically elected boards that reflect the needs of the entire community.” ❚
Survey seeks input on education choice
Through an online survey that is now open, the UCP government is seeking input “to help identify opportunities to help protect and enhance education choice.”
Although he says the survey is flawed and biased, ATA president Jason Schilling is urging teachers to complete it anyway.
“I know you are busy, I know you are tired of surveys,” he wrote to Alberta teachers on social media in mid-November. “But when this is our only connection at this point, then we need to once again show this government why public education is important.”
The survey is available on the Alberta government website at alberta.ca/choice-in-education-engagement.aspx. It closes on Dec. 6.