Charter schools most certainly are not public education

Let’s create one strong system that works for all, Sandra B. Woitas says.

  • Edmonton Journal

  • 26 May 2023

  • One of the 100 Edmontonians of the Century, Sandra B. Woitas is a veteran educator and advocate who is now a private consultant.

I read last week’s opinion piece about charter schools in the Edmonton Journal (Charter schools are public education, too, May 17) with more than a little dismay. After spending 35 years as an educator with Edmonton Public Schools, I can say with certainty that charter schools are not, in fact, public education. too.

Philosophically, we all want what is best for our children, who will be the leaders of tomorrow. Collectively, we want a system that builds our children’s competencies, prepares them for an ever-changing world and arms them with critical thinking skills that will serve them well.

I argue we already have that, without the proliferation of charter schools.


A familiar argument in favour of charter schools is giving parents a choice in their child’s education. In our local context, Edmonton Public and Catholic schools offer immense choice for families and students to pursue passions close to their hearts and interests. Edmonton Public Schools offers 29 alternative programs to fit the needs of students, which includes the arts, athletics, language programs, specialized programming, faithbased programming and many more. You don’t have to look very far to find choices that meet students’ needs and interests.

When it comes to choice, I am concerned about how charter schools can choose who they accept into their program. Public schools open their doors to all learners, regardless of their background, income status or learning level. This results in a rich learning environment where diversity, acceptance and understanding flourishes, is celebrated and encouraged.


When compared to the public and Catholic systems, charter schools operate with one fundamental difference: they do not have a publicly elected board of trustees governing the education of our youngest citizens. This is an important and key distinction. Accountability to the public is entrenched through the election of a school board trustee every four years. Through your vote, you are holding the board accountable for your child’s education. They are responsible for the budget, setting goals, priorities and a strategic plan for your child’s education. They are your avenue to advocate for your child and your school.


Finally, we must talk dollars and cents in any discussion about charter schools. There are a finite amount of education dollars and, in the past few years, the province has talked about frozen education budgets. Adding more charter schools means fracturing a finite amount of resources even further, meaning everyone gets a smaller piece of the pie. An investment in existing public education is an investment in our collective future.


For years, I have watched with pride as Alberta students outperform their peers across the country and globally. Our education system, without the increasing prevalence of charter schools, is already the envy of many across the world.

As we head into a provincial election, where we will choose the future we want for our beloved province, I argue we already have a strong public education system that is at risk of being fractured in a way that could cause irreparable damage.