Time to share the pain and stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars on elite private and cherry-picking charter schools

Posted on April 03, 2016, 3:19 am
10 mins

PHOTOS: A typical Alberta charter school class, at least as imagined by supporters of the expensive idea. Actual charter and private school students in 2016 may not appear exactly as illustrated. Below: Progressive Conservative Party interim Leader Ric McIver, Education Minister David Eggen and private school supporter and former PC premier Jim Prentice.

Progressive Conservative Party interim Leader Ric McIver has introduced a motion demanding the Alberta Legislature continue pouring more than $200 million a year into elite private schools, charter schools and home schooling schemes.

Of course, that’s not quite the way Mr. McIver’s motion is worded.

McIver-RPrivate Member’s Motion No. 504 asks the Legislature to urge the government “to affirm its commitment to allowing parents the choice of educational delivery for their children, including home, charter, private, francophone, separate, or public education programs.” (Emphasis added.)

In conservative circles nowadays, the word “choice” when applied to education and health care is usually code for privatization or conditions that encourage privatization. So Mr. McIver’s effort to lump together public, separate and francophone education, which are today all part of the public education system, with home, private and charter education is a not very successful sleight of hand.

The idea, presumably, is to allow the PCs to claim the NDP doesn’t support public education if its MLAs vote against the motion, even though the most likely result of such a vote would be to reduce funding to public education. So it’s a kind of political parlour trick unlikely to fool its intended audience.

In other words, it’s designed to present the government of Premier Rachel Notley with a problem. Instead, it’s said here, it has handed the NDP a wonderful opportunity to do the right thing and benefit the province.

Let me explain:

Alberta is the only Canadian province that funds charter schools, which are generally defined as “alternative” schools that receive government money but are really just private schools that are subsidized by taxpayers.

EggenThere’s a good reason we’re alone on this: it’s a bad policy that takes money from taxpayers to bankroll often dubious and poorly monitored specialty programs, many of which cherry-pick students on such grounds as how likely they are to succeed and how much money their parents have. Practically speaking, it also takes money away from public education.

Alberta’s charter schools, which often try to deny their teachers fair pay and union representation, continue to receive the full per-student grant provided to public and separate schools.

This policy was implemented by the government of Ralph Klein in 1995 as part of its neoliberal program of undermining any public service where a profit could be made by corporations – even if that ultimately cost citizens more and delivered lower-quality service.

Cash for charter schools continues to be supported by PCs, obviously, and by the Wildrose Party as well, which is influenced by the same delusion that private services are always better than public services.

Unfortunately, it also continues to be government policy, a legacy of decades of PC rule, even though the NDP, Liberals and Alberta Party have all explicitly opposed it at one time or another in the past.

Meanwhile, over the years, the PCs also ratcheted up direct public support of private schools. They justified this by saying parents deserved choice and claiming subsidies were needed because that choice was expensive. At the same time, they allowed private schools that received public subsidies to have no limits on tuition, presumably so they could keep the un-moneyed riff-raff out. Private school tuition can cost as much as $50,000 a year in Alberta today.

PrenticeBack in 2008, long before he was the last PC premier of Alberta, Jim Prentice was one of the authors of a report that made just such specious arguments.

Fast forward to the present. Today we have low oil prices persisting worldwide and costs that exceed revenues to the point Alberta is expecting a budget deficit of $10 billion or higher. And yet the very same conservative parties who scream hysterically about the need for austerity and cutbacks to services for all Albertans so we can enjoy the dubious benefits of scrupulously balanced budgets are demanding the government continue to spend $226 million every year bankrolling elite charter and private schools! What’s wrong with this picture?

Last spring, NDP Education Minister David Eggen said he had no plans to roll back funding for private and charter schools. But that was then and this is now. Back then, the government was also sticking by its plans for a $15-per-hour minimum wage and vowing there would be no cutbacks to public expenditures in education and health care.

Now, after a year of very little relief on oil prices and unremitting shrieking by the parties of the right about the desperate need for cuts, cuts, cuts – never mind the fact this flies in the face of economic common sense about what to do to keep the economy ticking in a recession – the NDP is starting to sound very much as if it is backtracking on some of these commitments.

The government has already dropped its longstanding support for a fair resource royalty structure. It also refuses to consider the sales tax that is needed to end Alberta’s dependence on the proverbial resource-price rollercoaster. Well, maybe some other commitments from a year ago need to go over the side now too!

What better candidate for a little fat trimming than the more than a quarter billion dollars we spend on private and charter schools that benefit only a tiny special interest group?

Surely it’s time to put that money back where it belongs: in public education, which benefits us all.

Naturally, supporters of private privilege for the well connected few – not very many of whom are likely to support the NDP in any circumstances – would scream bloody murder. So one can understand why the NDP might have wanted to let this sleeping dog lie.

But Mr. McIver’s motion has placed it clearly on the public agenda, and that is why I say an opportunity has been presented to the NDP. What better time, then, to listen to its allies, supporters and potential supporters and stop this waste of our tax dollars?

As recently as 2013, the Alberta School Boards Association passed a motion calling for all funds handed to private and charter schools to be reallocated to public education. What a great moment to listen to these committed and knowledgeable citizens.

We should be grateful to Mr. McIver for giving our government an opportunity that may never be repeated to tell supporters of elite private and charter schools that we feel their pain, but we’ve listened to the people of Alberta and we just can’t afford this luxury in our current financial circumstances.

Publicly funded two-tier education is a harmful and unaffordable relic of Alberta’s Tory past. There’s no time like hard times to put an end to it.

If some Albertans insist on sending their kids to private schools, we should tell them they’re welcome to do so … as long as they’re prepared to pay for it themselves.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

37 Comments to: Time to share the pain and stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars on elite private and cherry-picking charter schools

  1. Ron

    April 3rd, 2016

    Seems like a no-brainer from here.
    These schools do not sound at all like what I understand to be the theory of charter school benefits: every parent gets the same sized voucher and decides which school to support.
    this is from the 1st link on Google for this search:”concept of charter schools funding”

    “Who attends charter schools? Whom do they serve?
    Nationwide, students in charter schools have similar demographic characteristics to students in the local public schools. In some states, charter schools serve significantly higher percentages of minority or low-income students than the traditional public schools. Charter schools accept students by random, public lottery.”

    http://www.uncommonschools.org/faq-what-is-charter-school

    Reply
    • ML

      April 11th, 2016

      Except that people who attend Catholic and religious based schools are also citizens, aren’t they? Except that most of the people who attend private faith-based schools – most of the schools – are not attended by wealthy individuals, but by people of many different faiths protected by our Charter – who aren’t wealthy. These citizens – public citizens – pay taxes and yet have to pay for the right to have a faith-based schooling choice. A parental choice protected by the UN Charter of Rights and Freedoms since World War 2. And yet, they do not enjoy the same benefits of citizenry and their tax contributions as people who choose non-faith-based options. Hmmm… In fact, faith-based choices, which are supposed to be protected by the Charter actually don’t receive the protections that exist in law because, by making a choice to send a child to private school, these citizens actually save the Education Ministry dollars – actually subsidize the public school system. In fact, there would be fewer services available to public school students if parents who choose private school have this choice taken from them and/or due to their lack of wealth, cannot afford the extra few thousand dollars (often around 3-5000) – that they pay for this choice and that subsidizes the public system. So, by supporting the NDP’s position on disallowing public schools, you would actually increase the deficit, cause a decrease in services to public school students, and continue to have several sections of society with their Charter (both UN and Canadian) rights violated.
      Yes… I guess when I look at it this way, with the facts in mind… I guess who wouldn’t want to destroy private schools?

      Reply
  2. Athabascan

    April 3rd, 2016

    For as long as I can remember this issue has always been a sore point for me. Using taxpayer money received by the poor and lower classes to benefit the rich is anti-democratic. it’s the same reason I never support tax money to build sports arenas for privately owned professional sports.

    Private schools and charter schools only benefit a minority of people in society. I would include religious based schools in that group, such as Catholic schools. Public money should be used for the public.

    Here’s a very simple rule to go by: Public money should be used to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The only exception should be when public money is used to help a disadvantaged group.

    Reply
    • Tammy

      April 3rd, 2016

      Charter schools serve everyone- not people with money as this article fabricates. Almost every single point stated in this article is astonishingly false. Misleading propaganda.

      Reply
      • Rick

        April 3rd, 2016

        Wrong. The article is bang-on. Charter schools absolutely DO NOT serve “everyone”. Far from it.

        I have relatives who send their kids to a so-called “charter school” that even the parents and school community call “a private school for poor people” – which is a big-time misnomer. The class sizes are capped and the school is never short of resources – computers, books, supplies, musical instruments, athletic equipment, you name it.

        The school in question uses an entrance – err, screening exam to see whether potential applicants are “suitable” or whether the school is “appropriate”. So potential applicants’ parents hire tutors and coaches to help the kids write the test. Once a kid is in, their siblings are also prioritized for entrance.

        Almost every charter school in Calgary operates this way – with the exception of a few that are curriculum-specific.

        Reply
        • Colleen

          April 4th, 2016

          Do you have any idea how much volunteering and fundraising are MANDITORY with the average charter school? They have computers, books, supplies, musical instruments, athletic equipment, etc?

          Also

          Reply
        • Maryinga

          April 4th, 2016

          Thanks for contribution some real information. Advertising spin too commonly stands in for fact. We pretend we’re all middle class………all eligible for special treatment…and while those illustions may be comforting to some……..the reality is too many kids don’t get the education they deserve…….while a few privileged children, get percs we think the public system can’t afford. Screening tests for suitability???

          Imagine a public system trying to operate that way!

          Reply
        • Salem

          April 15th, 2016

          Are you drunk? That’s not how charter schools work at all. Does anyone ever take you seriously? Have you ever been in the Islamic charter school or the all girls charter.
          – these schools make a huge difference in these kids lives and they offer wonderful programs. You sound horribly uneducated about charter schools and if someone wants to send their kids to private school they have the RIGHT to choose where there tax dollars go. I say rather than choosing to support public or separate the should include all of the other options as well including home schooling.

          Reply
      • Athabascan

        April 4th, 2016

        Stated like a true one-percenter, and or religious fanatic.

        If you want to indoctrinate your children about a false make believe deity, do it on your own dime.

        Reply
      • April 4th, 2016

        Really? Cite a few sources if it isn’t too much trouble. As a teacher in the public system, I happen to know a little bit about the move to create ‘choice’ for parents….and yes……for the most part, it was a scam. Parents who wanted religious teaching got behind some of the charters…..and a year or two ago, one of these ‘charter’ schools went belly up….and there was a wee scandal, mostly ignored by the press, concerning the wages the CEO paid himself, and the pricey cars he was driving.

        Had a friend teach at another private ‘academy’ a few years ago. Tuition was 10,000 plus…and by the middle of the year, they were out of funds for art supplies!!! But builiding new facilities to expand into high school.

        Whatever the curriculum of most private schools….the tuition fees are real…and likely by now, much higher than the 10,000 I cite above. Private schools charge tuition. No fabrication there. But that public tax dollars should subsidize them is elitism pure and simple…no fabrication there.

        Reply
        • MDP

          April 8th, 2016

          GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT (as the “award-winning journalist” should have done, and did not, before writing this article). Those who cannot bother to do their research have no business commenting. You are referring, I believe, to the “International School of Excellence” which was a PRIVATE school that was shut down in 2014. There are currently 13 PUBLIC charter schools in Alberta, the most recent charter having been granted in 2008. They are subject to RIGOROUS EXTERNAL EVALUATION in order to retain their charter, which must be approved initially on the basis of providing innovative methods of instructional delivery for the purpose of benefitting student learning. They are now subject to an additional condition, that of engaging in research that is intended for the same purpose and places an additional strain on budgets that already rely on fewer dollars than other public schools. Whereas the per pupil grants are the same, certain other funding sources are currently denied, so accommodating charter school students saves Alberta Education money. Some Alberta public charter schools have wait lists numbering in the thousands but have enrolment capped by Alberta Education so are unable to respond to that need. That may please the ideologues who feel that control of this most important function should not be left to the parents who pay for it and the students who benefit from it, but it is those same families who will suffer when their educational needs are not met. Case in point: the recent refusal to grant a charter to the proposed “Rethink” school for learning disabled children, citing as the rationale the duplication of services already offered by the mainstream public boards. Ask the 300 or so desperate parents who endorsed this charter application if they are getting what they need, where they are. If they were, they would never have signed on and would not be devastated by the current government’s refusal to approve this application.

          Let’s put our focus squarely where it should be in this whole debate – on meeting the needs of children. The misinformation about public charter schools, the willingness to spread it, and the biases that work against any kind of objective investigation into the facts, are simply ASTOUNDING.

          Reply
          • David Climenhaga

            April 8th, 2016

            The Award Winning Journalist makes mistakes from time to time, but he stands by the facts in this story. MDP, of course, is welcome, even encouraged, to disagree with the AWJ’s interpretations of what they mean.

    • ML

      April 11th, 2016

      Aren’t people of different faiths protected by the Charter also tax-paying citizens? Are only atheists and agnostics full citizens in society? Hmm…. not what I thought democracy was – perhaps, educated in a public school, I was misinformed about the rights of citizens in a free and democratic society? Thanks for correcting me. Now I understand that I have to be an atheist or agnostic and poor (I’ll need a definition of what income I must have to qualify or what amount of money disqualifies my citizenship) so that I can truly become a member of society if I choose. Or, am I allowed that choice by others in this democratic society you speak of? I’ve always thought that the only fair system was to fund each child the same and let the family choose…. that would be truly democratic… At least the democracy I was taught – which meant I had freedoms.

      Reply
    • Katara

      October 27th, 2016

      Strange… I know quite a few people who’ve done homeschooling or gone to a private religious school, and none of them were rich. I’d say all of them were solidly middle-class – some even work an extra job to pay for tuition for their kids. I have a hard time believing this article is unbiased when I grew up knowing many non-rich kids attending these schools.

      As for religious schools – guess what, we pay taxes too 😛 And given that most kids spend such a large amount of time at school, you want the environment to be something that aligns reasonably well with your values. Public schools fit this bill less and less as time goes on. We should be allowed to have our taxes support something we wish to use.

      Reply
  3. K. Larsen

    April 3rd, 2016

    Is Mr. McIvor also trying to scare home schooling parents? The Edmonton Public School Board had an excellent internet based home schooling program which we enrolled one of our daughters in for grades 9 through 12. The secular curriculum was the same as in the bricks and mortar public schools and the online teachers and support were a large cut above what we were used to. We used this option since we live deep in rural Alberta and the Klein cutbacks had made sending our children to the local public school untenable.

    The good thing about the Klein policy was the funding followed the child so our education tax dollars went to the Edmonton Public School Board. This meant we were not captive to the religiously dominated local public school board and its very anti-intellectual policies and practices.

    Unless something has changed, aside from making a lot more money available, cutting the welfare to private and charter schools should have zero effect on homeschooling programs provided by public school boards. Perhaps Mr. McIvor needs to do his homework.

    Reply
    • ml

      April 11th, 2016

      Yes! And homeschoolers – whether they are in public or private schools, are funded at a lower level than those who choose to go to a brick and mortar school. Hmmm… how does taking this choice away bring money back into the public system? In fact, many students with special needs that are currently not served in the brick and mortar system are able to actually finish their schooling in alternative programs so that they can contribute to society with their parents bearing the responsibility for supervising them at home instead of having a job because their learning needs are not served in the public system… These parents are subsidizing the public system. Hmm…. how does this math work again?

      Reply
  4. Topiary

    April 4th, 2016

    Good article David, you might also want to investigate publicly funded ‘public’ schools at some time. I.e., Old Scona, Archbishop Mac, Victoria etc. It appears that they have ‘means’ tests.

    Reply
  5. Frank

    April 4th, 2016

    More like to stop wasting money on outdated public education, sweetheart union contracts, and overpaid teachers and privatize all education. Klein took the first step and was on the right track.

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      April 5th, 2016

      Everyone is overpaid except you right? Only you work soooo hard. Privatize everything except when you need free health care, then it should be free only for you.

      Reply
  6. Colleen

    April 4th, 2016

    Not all private and charter schools are for the Rich. In fact many of them are for students with learning disabilities or otherwise have special needs.

    The vast majority cost tax payers LESS even at 70% funding than a publicly funded special needs student does. If the same student attends a regular public school, they will get the usual per student funding from Alberta Education, but will also get an additional sum of money depending on the severity of their disability sent to the school. This can be in the $15,000 range…..on top of the regular funding. Most private or charter schools for these same students do a far better job with way less funding.

    So in the end, for these students they often have a better outcome, with way less money than if they went to a public school that isn’t set up to meet their needs, is overcrowded, and dealing with any variety of other challenges. Keep in mind the vast majority of the students who ended up in charter or private schools spent some time in the public system already and it didn’t work for them. Hence why they moved.

    I understand that for the smaller percentage of elite
    schools that serve the rich that there would be concern, BUT by wiping out this funding across the board you will not just hurt an already marginalized population, but those same kids now have to be accommodated in an already over capacity school at a HIGHER cost per kid.

    You won’t save a dime!!

    Reply
  7. political ranger

    April 4th, 2016

    You need say no more David, than that this was a policy of Klein. Anything and everything he touched was anti-intellectual and based on ignorance and short term personal gain.
    We hear this morning on CBC, that great national democratic institution, that many, many (dozens?, hundreds?, thousands?) Canadians of means have been using off-shore tax havens to hide their money from the taxman.
    But these very same people want tax-payer supported ‘special’ education.

    Good call David on very bad policy.

    Reply
    • Colleen

      April 5th, 2016

      Umm, not everyone who thinks there is a place for other types of schooling is hiding money in offshore accounts. I’m a single mom with 2 special needs kids who would love to put them in a school that focussed on kids with learning disabilities and/or special needs. I don’t even have extra money in my own bank account 8 blocks from my house.

      I’m not elitist at all, but public schools have to cater to the masses and unfortunately my kids have never gotten the resources they need. Both kids have scored about the 95%ile for IQ and could be productive citizens if only they had the right education for their needs.

      Are there some private schools or even some charter schools that are elitist? Of course, but in the public system we’ve run into that too. The elementary school down the street from us was brutal to my kids. They were more than happy to take the additional $15,000 per year that my kids brought in because they have special needs. They were also happy to buy Smart boards, and paint all the walls too, but neither of my kids had an educational assistant working with them, nor did some of their teachers know how to handle their particular learning concerns, but thanks for bringing in $30,000 for us. Good use of tax payer dollars? Being elitest isn’t reserved for just those in private or charter schools. And not everyone who needs and deserves a good education is a wealthy turd hiding money……thank you very much.

      Reply
  8. Maria

    April 4th, 2016

    Is the Province really funding private and Charter Schools or is the province funding each child attending school? It seems to me that the later is the case. So long as the provincial allotment is the same per child I have no problem with parents sending kids to specialized schools. Charter and Private Schools claim to provide a better education than the public system, so one would expect the children in those schools to score in the top percentages of provincial exams. Instead of cutting funding for children attending specialized schools, perhaps the focus should be on ensuring that the children do in fact get a better education as measured by provincial test results and the kids receive instruction in the same areas as public schools, including all aspects of health education. If the education is not superior, then the license of the school should be reviewed. If parents want to spend extra money on schooling, and teachers want to work in a non-unionized system that is up to them.

    I do, however, has a problem with home schooled children being financially supported by the Government.

    Reply
    • Colleen

      April 5th, 2016

      Oh my goodness Maria, do you have any idea how much the government “funds” homeschooled kids? Take a guess? Alberta Education pays a whopping $800. No I didn’t miss any zero’s. That is actually $800. Oh but what if your kid has any kind of special need, that could get a convention school an extra $15,000 per year in funding because of the “additional costs and resources” that student might need? Those parents get an additional…..wait for it……. $0. Yup, ZERO dollars.

      So for anyone that thinks a homeschooled kid sucks the system of anything, think again. Feel free to contact any homeschool board or Alberta Ed if you think I’m making that up. My kids both have special needs and are in the public system…..being failed royally I might add. I’ve looked into homeschool, but NOBODY can make a year long education work for $800. If you don’t think we as tax payers are getting the best bloody deal off the backs of homeschoolers then you’re being foolish. If you fight to end homeschool in Alberta, you’d better be ready to cough up a whole lot more money, and start building new schools, ’cause those kids will be back in the public system costing us 20-35 thousand each…..every single year. Know the facts first.

      Reply
  9. Farmer B

    April 4th, 2016

    I believe the Alberta government only funds a portion of private school costs and parents pay the rest. So therefore if the government ceased all funding of private schools and this resulted in many closing, the government cost could actually increase due to the fact they pay more per student in a public school. The law of unintended consequences.

    Reply
  10. Maryinga

    April 4th, 2016

    I couldn’t agree more. While we pretended to give parents ‘choice’, as a province we also began slashing programs that served the diverse needs of our children inside the public system. Special education felt the cuts first….my own child just making it through a very good program before it got slashed. For young adults who actually needed some choice, but didn’t have a wealthy parent to bank role them, choice began disappearing in our system during the de Kline years.

    Jack James and William Van Horne in Calgary got students through high school with a general diploma, through special programs and lower student teacher rations. Where do those kids go today to get a hand up through the downsized….one size fits all secondary programs that exist today??? And who cares???

    Put the money back into our public system. We had the best educated teachers in all of Canada when I was teaching…build the diversity and support systems all our children deserve………..AND STOP PRETENDING THAT PRIVATE SCHOOLS ARE ABOUT PARENTAL CHOICE.

    Parents have their education. And for those who think quality public education for all is too expensive…TRY IGNORANCE FOR A FEW DECADES.

    Oh yes, I nearly forgot. Alberta’s already given that a good run these last few neo-liberal years. Time to learn from our mistakes and do some real correcting.

    Reply
  11. Topiary

    April 4th, 2016

    Good article David, the only additional comment I would have is that there are several ‘public’ schools that operate as elitist ‘private’ like organizations that are fully supported by public school trustees i.e., Old Scona, Archbishop MacDonald, Victoria (Edmonton) etc. And allowing these schools to ‘means’ test students also takes away from the educational common weal.as it allows systems to segregate the ‘intellectuals’ form the ‘workers’.

    Reply
  12. Bob Raynard

    April 4th, 2016

    I am a retired teacher. I taught at a conventional school in rural Alberta for 17 years, then at Aurora Charter School in Edmonton for 14 years. Although biased, I think I can provide some clarity to this discussion. Let me also acknowledge that I retired in June of 2013, and my remarks were accurate at that date; I have not kept up with things since then.

    First, I really think it is inaccurate to portray private and charter schools as two heads on the same beast. While private schools do charge hefty tuition fees, charter schools do not. For most of the time I was at Aurora the school fee was $75, and capped at $150 per family, although I think it may have increased right around when I retired. Since this was cheaper than what most conventional schools charged, the idea that at least our charter school was for elite families is untrue.

    The purpose of a charter school is to offer parents a particular focus, or philosophy. There is a charter school in Edmonton that focuses on music, one in Calgary that focuses on science, and one in California (where else?) that apparently focuses on love. At Aurora our philosophy was that students of average ability could achieve excellence when placed in an environment with a focus on discipline.

    The ‘elite’ aspect was that parents had to buy into the philosophy, and they were an essential link in the chain. When a student acted up, all I had to do was suggest that I would soon be in contact with their parents and their behaviour showed a marked improvement. This, in turn, created an environment where students could focus on their work, and, as one of our former students put it, “the amount of learning that happened was incredible”.

    I willingly acknowledge that not all parents have the time, energy or inclination to be that involved in their children’s education, and in that sense there is an elite element in the equation, but the ‘eliteness’ came from parents who were able to be involved, not be well off.

    Charter schools are technically open to everyone. That said, we can and did fail students, just like what happened in conventional school a couple of generations ago. Thus we did use entrance tests to determine which grade was the best fit for a student, as Rick has pointed out. The questions on these tests, however, were from Alberta curriculum from the previous grade. For example, a student wishing to enrol in Grade 7 had to show that he or she had in fact learned the material from Grade 6, just like our own students had to. Again, I acknowledge that some parents would interpret this as elitism when they are given the choice of having their child stay in a regular school in Grade 7 or having to enrol in Grade 6 at our school.

    On the issue of funding, charter schools do receive the same per student grant that conventional school boards do. Because it is a one school school board, however, it does have less overhead (i.e. bureaucratic) costs than a conventional school board, so more funds are available to go directly into instruction.

    In the interest of full disclosure, however, it must also be admitted that charter schools are not required to provide specialized instruction for special needs students, and this did create a huge advantage for our school. I don’t believe most people are aware of what a drain special needs programs are on school’s budgets. (My wife spent most of her career in a conventional school) When the integration idea was first implemented the politicians promised that teacher assistants would be provided, but when the Klein cuts started to happen guess what there was no money for? I was told once that IF a student qualified for an assistant, the grant was for about half the cost of an aid, with the rest coming out of the school’s regular budget. Over the years I could never understand why parents of capable, but perhaps a bit weak, students didn’t revolt over how little teacher time was available to help their children.

    When writing this I deliberately did not refer to conventional schools as ‘public’ schools because we really considered our school to be public as well.

    Bob

    Reply
  13. David Climenhaga

    April 5th, 2016

    My apologies to the many readers who commented today for my slow approvals of their remarks. I have been on the road without a computer.

    Reply
  14. Sam Gunsch

    April 5th, 2016

    And as most know, the Fraser Institute propaganda for private schools helped create AB’s situation. Recent reporting on this propaganda machine that retains its charitable – no partisan politics – status. lol

    http://www.pressprogress.ca/fraser_institute_vp_to_koch_funded_group_our_school_rankings_part_of_a_communications_agenda

    excerpt:

    ‘Private schools top Fraser Institute’s 2016 B.C. elementary school rankings #bced https://t.co/g0w8P3q11D pic.twitter.com/EJrKNMSIWM
    — CBC British Columbia (@cbcnewsbc) April 3, 2016

    Well, according to the Fraser Institute’s Executive Vice President, the school rankings are actually a tool in the Institute’s “communications agenda,” part of a strategy designed to “convince people” there’s a “problem.”

    That’s what Fraser Institute VP Jason Clemens told a 2014 workshop organized by the Atlas Network, a Washington-based umbrella organization for right-wing think tanks and political action groups, funded by Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and other wealthy donors connected to the American Tea Party movement.’

    Reply
  15. Donna

    April 11th, 2016

    You have your idea of funding completely wrong in this article. Private schools save the public school’s funds ($750 million over five years to be exact!) not the other way around. Strip that funding and it will only cost all taxpayers far more while penalizing those who can barely access private or charter schools, while the wealthy will still have access. See PCE’s report on the truth behind the funding numbers here and stand up for equitable funding for all students and all settings! http://parentchoice.ca/albertas-independent-schools-taxpayers-saved-750-million/

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      April 12th, 2016

      Good one! So your argument is that giving away money to the elites saves money for the masses. That ranks right up there with trickle down economics and the argument that rich one-percenters aren’t really greedy a-holes, but are instead altruistic job creators.

      If you want private schools, then have them, but don’t use public money to fund them.

      Reply
      • Kay

        April 14th, 2016

        Hey Athabascan,
        If I (and others) want private schools, etc, then we should be able to have them. Period.
        That ‘Public Money’ you refer to comes from MY TAXES.
        Dont act like others are stealing from you. You’re not the only one who pays taxes, so you’re not the only one whose opinion counts.
        My taxes and my opinion = just as valid as yours. And I would like the “public money” that I pay to go to these schools.

        Reply
  16. Erin

    April 14th, 2016

    This stupidity about “the rich” and “the elite” using this is a total straw man argument.
    Ok – so you are against homeschooling and charter and private schools, as the writer of this article is? Fine. You have the right to your own views. But no one is fooled by your posturing, pretending you are Robin Hood standing up to the fat cats.
    Take my household, with our very modest income, as a real life example. I am not “elite” nor am I “rich”. These options are essential to the needs of my kids, and trying to remove the very positive thing of the funding following my child makes me mad.
    Those are my taxes, thank you very much.
    If I want them to go to one of these schools or homeschooling (which hardly gets any funding) than that is my choice.
    Yes for parents like me.
    Yes for my kids.
    Yes for choice.

    Reply
  17. Michael

    April 18th, 2016

    The province funds children going to school, not schools themselves, and students attending those schools only receive partial funding. Charter and private schools have to raise huge amounts of money through tuition and other fundraising in order to achieve equal per student funding with the public system.

    In the mean time, those parents continue to pay taxes which go to support public schools. I pay twice – tuition for my children’s private Christian school and then through my taxes to the public system. I am effectively subsidizing the public system by paying for a service my kid doesn’t use, while paying separately for private school.

    If every kid in Alberta who currently attends private or charter schools or is home schooled suddenly enrolled in the public system, you’d add nearly two hundred and fifty thousand new students with 0 new tax levy funding, because the public system already has the taxes from those parents. The ATA loves to talk about how thinly they’re already stretched. Think we could afford another influx of a quarter million students? People who think they want the govt to stop funding private schools should be careful what they wish for.

    Reply
  18. Bob Raynard

    April 20th, 2016

    Michael, charter schools are, or at least we’re in 2013 when I retired, fully funded with the same number of dollars as the other public schools.

    Bob

    Reply
  19. LM

    April 23rd, 2016

    Each child in a public funded school in Alberta costs the same regardless of public, Catholic, or charter. Charter schools are not elitist, some special needs ones have special entrance criteria, but so do the special needs programs in the CBE. My daughter has been assessed as exceptionally gifted, it comes with a need for a more challenging school environment and one that also understands the emotional and social concerns that come with that. We had to apply for the CBE gifted program using her assessment results and to Westmount, the charter school for gifted children. Both are hard to get into with limited spaces. She got into both. So, CBE, the public system restricts entry into their programs too. Why let a “normal” kid into a special needs school or program for the sake of equality. Do you have any idea what abolishing these charter schools would do to some of these special needs children? Do you know that even if you incorporate these schools into the CBE the kid’s head will still cost the same? Do you know that Westmount runs a very lean operation, most money towards teachers, etc? I would be more concerned with the duplication of boards between Catholic and CBE, two monstrous organizations, where two are not necessary. Charter schools are about 1% of the entire Alberta Education budget, seriously how is this any savings when your paying for the child regardless. Why, why disrupt a child’s life and education for basically no savings to the government? Why!?

    Reply

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