Quite simply, if you are not committed to the public education system, you should pay the freight for your private school.
Question: So why is my union beaking off about phasing out funding for private schools? Choice is a good thing. Stick to bargaining my salary and my working conditions.
Answer: The Alberta Teachers’ Association was approached several weeks ago to join a coalition of voices to protest public funding for private schools. Our policy on this matter goes back generations and is very simple: we support private schools, but we do not support public funding for private schools. Alberta has the highest taxpayer contributions to private schools of anywhere in the country. In my time with the ATA, government funding for private schools has increased from 50 per cent to 70 per cent of the per-pupil amount provided to public schools.
It’s also true that the public disagrees with funding for private schools — polling ranges from 61 per cent to 70 per cent support to remove funding from private schools. The private school lobby continues to push for additional funding for private schools.
The ATA’s position is certainly not new. Quite simply, if you are not committed to the public education system, you should pay the freight for your private school. That’s how it works in some other provinces. The taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for your private decision to utilize a private school.
While there is a group of 13 organizations calling upon the government to phase out funding for private schools, some media attention has recharacterized this effort as an ATA one. That’s certainly not true. We haven’t done very much on this policy for many years, but the request came on the back of concerns about funding for public schools and home-schooling, and our table officers felt it was an appropriate time to shine a spotlight on our concerns.
I should also draw to the members’ attention that the ATA’s objects go well beyond the duties of a trade union — we also have professional regulatory responsibilities and extensive professional development functions, and we are established under the Teaching Profession Act. It’s not just about salary and conditions of professional practice. And government decisions about how to fund education (for example, vouchers) have a profound impact on the profession and society. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (firstname.lastname@example.org).