No need for more charter schools in Alberta

UCP’S funding support shows its ultra-right bias, Ray Martin says.

  • Edmonton Journal

  • 13 Apr 2022

  • Ray Martin was the leader of the Alberta NDP and the leader of the Opposition in the Alberta legislature from 1984 to 1993. He served four terms as an Alberta MLA and two terms as an Edmonton public school board trustee.

The recent announcement by Jason Kenney and Education Minister Adriana Lagrange again shows clearly their ultra-right approach in dealing with public services. This announcement shows the UCP’S approach to governing is the triumph of ideology over common sense. Twenty-five million is going to charter schools for additional operating funds and $47 million in new capital spending over three years for a total of $72 million.

This occurs at the same time that Edmonton Public Schools received no money for new schools in this year’s budget.

Alberta is the only 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.

Kenney’s comments that charter schools would provide better support for kids with special needs shows how out of touch he is in dealing with the education system in the province. Generally, it is the high income parents who apply to charter schools. However, public school systems are very diverse in their offerings to students and parents for their school choices.

Besides regular programming, the following alternative education programs are offered by Edmonton Public Schools: regular programs; special education needs; early years: pre-kindergarten for children two to five years old; arts-focused programs; athletics programs; faithbased; First Nations, Métis and Inuit culture; languages: bilingual or immersion programming in American Sign Language (ASL), Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), German, French, Hebrew, and Spanish; teaching philosophy: a different approach to teaching and learning; English language learning; home and online education; skills and jobs training; alternate high school completion; summer school: academic courses for elementary, junior and high school students; international student program; adult continuing education; pregnant and parenting teens.

With this number of programs already being offered, it should be obvious that there is no need for more charter schools.

My years as a public school trustee gave me great insight into the valuable and important work done by our teachers and teacher aides. I was always welcomed into the classrooms in my Ward D in Edmonton to observe ongoing classes or sometimes to participate in the students’ activities.

To see students who come from diverse economic, social and cultural backgrounds working well with the professional staff gave me hope for a brighter future for these students.

Clearly, there is no need to burden our public school system with more charter schools which often cater to higher income parents — ultimately costing additional money that could be put to better use by the public school system to address the educational needs of all Albertans.

The latest announcement by the UCP adding more dollars to charter schools and fewer dollars to public school boards shows their ultraright bias.

Enough is enough.

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