Jason Kenney states his support for public funding of home-schooling, parents’ right to veto sex education, and more

Posted on December 11, 2016, 2:01 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Jason Kenney … he’s got some thoughts on education and we thought you might like to know what they are (CBC photo). Below: Alberta Education Minister David Eggen, Progress Alberta Executive Director Duncan Kinney and defiant Pastor Brian Coldwell of Parents for Choice in Education.

Where does Jason Kenney stand on important issues in education, including the rights of sexual minority students, “parents’ rights,” and funding?

eggenThe views of the front-runner in the race to lead the Progressive Conservative Party are not entirely promising, but to give the man credit, at least he was prepared to say what he believes – albeit in a forum where he had reason to suspect his opinions would not be widely reported.

In a response to a questionnaire by Parents for Choice in Education, which describes itself as a “non-profit advocacy organization that believes in excellence in education through maximum parental choice,” Mr. Kenney indicated his strong agreement with all the positions taken by the group referenced in its questionnaire. In response to the group’s 11 questions, Mr. Kenney’s answers indicated the two strongest levels of agreement, 1 or 2 on the five-point scale used by the group.

The questionnaire was sent to all four remaining candidates for the leadership of the PC Party, and the group said Mr. Kenney was the only one to respond. He is also the only one of the four whose plan is to wind up the affairs of the venerable political party and merge it with the Wildrose Opposition.

Since, in practice, Parents for Choice is an active and successful lobby for ever-higher government funding of private and charter schools plus home schooling, that suggests at least that each of the other candidates is uncomfortable with the positions taken by the group and didn’t want to open themselves to attack by giving honest answers. We should also assume that Mr. Kenney’s answers reflect his true beliefs.

kinneyAmong his answers and accompanying commentary, Mr. Kenney indicated:

  • He supports allowing different approaches to curriculum in publicly funded schools, as well as different approaches to school clubs. He indicated the strongest level of agreement, 1.
  • Parental approval should be required for any instruction related to sex education, sexuality and gender identity, and parents should be allowed to pull their children out. 2.
  • Parental consent should be mandatory for a child’s participation in all extra-curricular activities, including student organizations and clubs. 2.
  • Parental permission should be required for children to attend any event involving an outside facilitator or program. 2.
  • All materials and resources used by students in instruction or extra curricular activities should be made available to parents. 2.
  • Taxpayers should provide “equitable” funding for independent, religious, charter and alternative schools, plus all forms of home schooling. 1.
  • Alberta should reintroduce and strengthen standardized testing for Grades 3, 6 and 9 and continue such tests in Grade 12. 1.

Of course, in this context, references to school clubs mean the gay-straight alliances required under Alberta law passed by the province’s last PC Government under premier Jim Prentice. Pastor Brian Coldwell, chair of the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society that has openly defied the legislation at two schools it runs in the Edmonton area, sits on the board of Parents for Choice.

coldwellMeanwhile, Globe and Mail reporter Carrie Tait on Friday continued to chronicle the financial goings on at Trinity Christian School Association, Wisdom Home Schooling Society of Alberta and other related entities that have been accused by the Alberta government of being part of a multimillion-dollar scheme to take public money intended for home schoolers and direct it to members of a family in rural Alberta.

Mr. Kenney was quick to jump to the defence of the two related organizations, which together used taxpayer money to oversee the educations of about a third of the province’s home-schooled children, when provincial officials moved to withdraw funding and accreditation in late October.

He loudly complained that Trinity students’ parents had been unfairly “blindsided” by the NDP government’s effort to safeguard the public’s money.

Ms. Tait’s reporting is based on court documents filed when Trinity and Wisdom sought and got a temporary injunction in October preventing the government from completely shutting down the two organizations’ operations. That case is due back in court on Jan. 5.

Ms. Tait reported Friday that the documents show provincial officials flagged financial and organizations problems with the private enterprises as long ago as 1997, but nothing was done for nearly two decades by various PC provincial governments.

“The government let things slide until this fall,” Ms. Tait wrote.

The NDP Government, and especially Education Minister David Eggen, have taken a lot of heat for that decision, but Albertans should really ask themselves why things were left as they were for so long.

As Duncan Kinney, executive director of Progress Alberta, wrote in an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail Friday, it’s “no fun to do the responsible thing and deal with a long-festering problem.”

“Six Tory education ministers had the chance,” he observed. “They all declined. It is worth asking why.”

If Mr. Kenney had been the person appointing Alberta’s cabinet, it sounds very much from his answers to Parents for Choice and other comments as if he and his education minister wouldn’t have done anything either. That’s something to keep in mind.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

22 Comments to: Jason Kenney states his support for public funding of home-schooling, parents’ right to veto sex education, and more

  1. David

    December 11th, 2016

    While this is only about private religious schools for the minority who support private and charter schools, it doesn’t say where Kenney stands in regard to public school education except that if public money goes to private/charter schools it comes out of the education budget that would otherwise go to public school education.

    Wherever charter schools have been established they have done a poorer job of educating their students than the public schools have. Of course since their founders and senior directors are very highly paid compared to public school trustees and principals what else can we expect?

    Reply
    • Jill Skriver

      December 11th, 2016

      And if you want my family back in the public education system you can cough up another approx 40%. MY taxes go to educate my grandchildren as do thier parents, so on what universe do you live that you dictate where my taxes are spent, especially when it saves you money? Charter schools get the same reduced level of governmental support that religious or specialty schools get, so it is the parents who pay the bulk for the education they want provided.

      Reply
      • Jill Skriver

        December 11th, 2016

        Sorry, I erred in that charter schools get full funding. It is priate specialty schools I was thinking of.

        Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      December 11th, 2016

      David, I don’t know where you got your opinion, but I am guessing the US, if your assertion has any truth to it at all. The charter school I taught at routinely posted results significantly higher than the provincial average. This sounds like bragging, but since these results are because charter schools had a significant, and unfair, advantage, there isn’t as much to brag about as we teachers liked to tell ourselves.

      That advantage was that charter schools were not required to provide special needs programming. Simply removing special needs students from the equation will obviously bring up an average score. Factor in the drain on a conventional school’s resources caused by inadequate special needs funding, and charter school’s advantage is even more profound. When I retired in 2013 there was some talk of requiring charter schools to provide special needs funding, so things may have changed by now.

      If you click on the link in my post below, you will also see that charter school board members get no payment for their work at all. Teacher and principal and salaries are quite comparable to their counterparts in conventional schools.

      Reply
      • Maryinga

        December 13th, 2016

        This is my understanding of how things worked as well…I’m also retired, but taught full time in the public system. I am not in favour of public money going to private schools, but if I remember correctly, charter schools did have to follow the mandated curriculum and hire certified teachers…

        So the primary advantage they had was that they could hand pick their students to a greater degree. This was enough for me to be opposed to them in general……..but the situation with Trinity is quite different. I’m surprised home schooling parents aren’t up in arms about that misuse of government money earmarked to help them.

        Reply
  2. Bob Raynard

    December 11th, 2016

    Another great post, David. Thanks for doing this. One thing that was not mentioned was how Mr. Kenney’s answers got out. Did Parents for Choice release his answers, or were they leaked to you?

    I do have to call you, and especially Parents for Choice, on one point, however. In Alberta charter schools receive the same funding as conventional public schools. Nor are charter schools allowed to be religious based. As such they really should not be lumped in with private and religious schools. As a blogger, David, you are allowed some latitude for this kind of oversight, but have Parents for Choice put so little thought into their survey that they are including charter schools in their questionnaire? I suppose it could be a proactive measure to ensure charter schools continue to receive the equal funding they already enjoy.

    I taught at a charter school for 13 years before I retired in 2013. The only real difference between the charter school and the conventional public school I taught at before that was the parents chose our school because they wanted to take advantage of the emphasis our school used. In my school’s case it was was a back to the basics focus; other schools emphasize music, native studies etc. They all use the Alberta Program of Studies to develop their programs.

    I don’t know if this link will work; if it doesn’t google ‘Alberta Charter Schools’ .

    https://education.alberta.ca/media/3227599/charter-schools-handbook-september-2015.pdf

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      December 11th, 2016

      Bob: Parents for Choice posted this material on their website. There is a link in the story. The group’s commentary explains that Mr. Kenney was the only candidate to respond. Most politicians, quite correctly, do not respond to questionnaires from groups that are likely to oppose them, since all they are doing is highlighting their differences for voters who may be wavering. Groups who send out such questionnaires invariably act as if ignoring them is a great moral outrage. Since the questionnaires are generally written in a tendentious way to aid their favourite candidate, this is nonsense. In this case, as I don’t check the Parents for Choice site regularly, the survey answers were drawn to my attention by a reader. Parents for Choice lists charter schools as part of the group they represent: “…These alternatives can include publicly funded alternative programs, Catholic schools, private schools, virtual schools, charter schools or home schooling.”

      Reply
      • Bob Raynard

        December 11th, 2016

        Thanks, David

        Reply
      • Sassy

        December 11th, 2016

        I wonder if Parents for Choice have talked with the Catholic bishops (or whoever the head honchos are in that organization). I’m sure Parents for Choice and Kenney would love to include Catholic schools in their battles because they know Alberta Education cannot remove Catholic school funding or accreditation. Are the Catholic bishops secretly on board? I believe Eggen will make decisions soon and it could get ugly.

        Reply
        • Jill Skriver

          December 11th, 2016

          Eggen has no right foisting ideology on children without parental consent. I find this article extremely slanted and feel very under attack as one of this out to lunch religious extremest group that “parents for “choice” is portrayed as.

          Reply
          • Maryinga

            December 13th, 2016

            Oh dear. Shutting down a scam where public money ends up in private pockets is foisting ideology on children? Actually, I think you might have it backwards.

            Parents home school for a variety of reasons, and have a range of ability at their disposal when they do so….but too often, the choice of home schooling involves some ideological disagreement the parents have with the public system….and that can get pretty scary.

            Like daily Bible reading in lieu of modern literature; an avoidance of anything considered political….or humanist….or socialist. Almost everyone has an ideology of some sort…and the only way to combat that tendency to narrowness, is to engage in ideas. Public schools could do a better job in this department quite often, but at least public education strives to be non sectarian, and pluralist in its values.

            Private schools often claim to offer greater intellectual rigour, and in some cases this is true. But they also do so in an atmosphere of entitlement and exclusivity. It’s like those $1500 dinners the Liberals were having, that anyone could attend. Most can’t afford the tuition….so whose ideology says that public taxpayers should pick up 70% of the tab for the fortunate, ‘choosing’ few??

            If it is ideological to believe all our children should be educated equally, and given equal opportunities to pursue their goals and dreams, well then I guess publicly funded education is an ideological nightmare. Otherwise, I’d accuse you of using your words loosely. Just as Parents for Choice are using choice loosely.

            It’s not choice if it costs too much for most kids; its not choice if it demands the right to remove choice from kids it deems unfit. We don’t get the choice to discriminate or bully in Canada…though I’m surprised how many people don’t get that.

  3. Filostrato

    December 11th, 2016

    “He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason” ― Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry

    Reply
  4. brett

    December 11th, 2016

    I think that these days, and most especially with Jason Kenney, that it is difficult to know where many politicians really stand on issues.

    I have no doubt that Jason Kenney understands the dynamics of the folks who will be voting for the next Conservative leader in Alberta. Just as he does for the dynamics of Alberta voters, most especially by constituency, in the Provincial election.

    He gears his comments, his policies, and his speeches to the groups whose support can put him over the top as it were.

    Like most politicians Goal #1 is to get elected. Goal #2 is to get re-elected. Goal #3 is to make it to a cabinet or
    committee in order to get more salary. Goal #4 is promotion and maybe even leader. Goal #5 is to take care of those who helped you get elected with a focus on those contribute finanically. Goal #6 is to think about a ‘soft landing/appointment’ in case you don’t get re-elected. Goal #7or perhaps even lower, is to take care of your constituents and to manage the Government is most efficient and fair manner-notwithstanding the vagaries of periodic polling. The public…well they generally are a bunch of manageable monkeys who politicians can message. I suspect that the public good/well being, for many politicians, falls well below even Goal #10.

    From what I see, Mr. Kenney has done a wonderful job following these priorities. Should be OK in Alberta. These are the priorities that have essentially been followed by post Lougheed Conservative Governments.
    Mr. Kenney would base his election campaign on the ‘flat earth belief’ if he thought it would get him annointed/appointed/elected.

    Reply
    • Keith McClary

      December 11th, 2016

      You forgot, stay on long enough to qualify for pension.

      Reply
  5. Alvin Finkel

    December 11th, 2016

    All the Tory candidates know that Parents for Choice is a euphemistic name for a homophobic, fundamentalist Christian organization of bigots. So three of them chose to ignore its questionnaire. Jason Kenney chose to answer because his values and theirs are the same. Interestingly, Kenney’s major message about the NDP government is that they spend too much money and that he will ruthlessly cut spending. But obviously he is going to be increasing public spending on education by holy rollers, no doubt by taking money out of public schooling. Since he insists that the ATA is an organization that is devoted to “social engineering,” there is little doubt that Jason Kenney will be absolute poison for public education in Alberta should he (God forbid) ever become premier.

    Reply
    • Jill Skriver

      December 11th, 2016

      So how much more racist can you get than that opening statement? I belong to “Parents for choice”, and yes I happen to believe in Jesus Christ however it was my atheist friend who had me join. I have a gay nephew and a gay cousin who I love very much and I demand they be protected and treated fairly, the same belief that those in my church believe; most churches for that matter. Talk about spitting in my face. I, (nor my atheist friends who brought me into the group) have any intention of letting the government introduce the reverse bigotry I’m seeing here. I want a good education for the children, am willing (begrudgingly) to subsidize because I get only a portion of $’s that follow these kids.

      Reply
      • Bob Raynard

        December 12th, 2016

        Jill, I think it should be pointed out that the Gay-Straight Alliance law does NOT force schools to have a GSA, it only prohibits the school from prohibiting an alliance when students request it. (The double ‘prohibiting’ makes it confusing, but it is what it is) As such, the case can be made that the law is not necessary since the charter right to freedom of assembly probably already allows it.

        On the Parents for Choice website they cite Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and kudos to them for that. If you look at the other articles in the UDHR, Article 20 also guarantees the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Other articles guarantee equal rights, freedom from discrimination etc,.

        Reply
  6. jerrymacgp

    December 11th, 2016

    Let us all be 100% clear: advocates of so-called “parental consent” laws, are exactly the ones that consider minority sexuality to be sinful, and condone at least by omission abusive behaviour to children and youth who are LGBTQ. Parental consent would, in other words, serve to out LGBTQ to those people they are most afraid of: their parents. It is absolutely inimical to the notion of safe and caring schools.

    As for sex ed, Alberta has among the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections anywhere in Canada; clearly, what we have been doing up until now hasn’t been working. Open, honest and non-judgemental education about sexuality and safe sexual behaviour, preferably delivered by a suitably-qualified health care professional, such as an AHS Public Health Nurse, instead of a potentially uncomfortable and perhaps poorly-prepared teacher, is the only option if we are going to see a reduction in those
    infection rates. It has to be about disease prevention and the public health, not about morality.

    Reply
    • Jill Skriver

      December 11th, 2016

      I have read about what is being said and at what age and there is NO way this government is going to put there ideology on my children. I am disgusted at what I saw being proposed and it is definitely being fought. As someone who is a strong Christian. I have watched my equally strong sister deal with a gay son. It certainly has been handled in love, and an amazing relationship is there. On the other hand, I’ve seen some gay’s thrown out and disowned by parents who weren’t christians. I’ll teach mine at home thank you.

      Reply
  7. Farmer B

    December 12th, 2016

    From a taxpayer standpoint I am trying to figure this out. The cost per student in a bricks and mortar public school is over 13000 dollars per student per year. Home schooling organizations recieve approx. 1600 dollars per student. So you have a dedicated parent willing to take the time to instruct their child, paying the same taxes as the rest of us and saving the Alberta taxpayer over 11000 dollars per child. You guys must have fallen and hit your head!

    Reply
    • Bob Raynard

      December 12th, 2016

      Hi Farmer B,

      I have to question your numbers.

      When I retired from teaching in 2013, our school’s per student grant was in the ballpark of five or six thousand dollars. That was what the school got, so that figure does not include the cost of running the bureaucracy of Alberta Education, which would up the figure a bit, but for Heaven’s sake I hope not all the way up to $13,000!

      Likewise on the home schooling side, I am pretty sure the $1600 figure you quoted does not include home schooling’s share of the cost of bureaucracy.

      Reply
      • Farmer B

        December 12th, 2016

        Bob I appreciate your response. I went on the Alberta Education budget sight for 2016-2017. Total budget 9.8 million. Of this 69.4% went to operating support to public and separate schools, 19.4% to facility funding and renovations, 7.2% to school board expenses, 2.5% to private schools and ecs, and 1.5 % to administration. I would assume that home schooling would be funded out of the 2.5% for private schools. So on a percentage basis private and home schooling is very small, this certainly doesn’t remove it from scrutiny. But it is also still a good deal for the taxpayer.

        Reply

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