Private schools are siphoning tax money that should go to public schools, says board chair

Red Deer Public School Board chair agrees with campaign to end public funding of private schools

The Alberta government should stop publicly funding private schools, says Red Deer Public School Board chair Bev Manning.

Since money is tight in this economy, Manning believes the NDP government needs to review whether it’s using education tax dollars wisely.

“We provide a valuable education that’s open to all students,” regardless of religion or ability levels, she added, while “private schools can accept who they wish to accept.”

And Manning believes learning disabled children are generally not among the ones selected for a private school education. Students needing more educational resources are among the broad spectrum of children taught by public schools.

Last week, a coalition of 14 groups, including the Alberta Teachers’ Association, backed a call from Public Interest Alberta to phase out funding for private schools (excluding those for students with special needs).

Private schools in Alberta receive 70 per cent of the per-pupil funding of public schools. Advocates for public education say that ending private school funding could free up $100 million per year for programs in public, separate and francophone schools that serve 93 per cent of Alberta students.

But the opposition Wildrose Party disputes limiting educational choices for families.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Don MacIntyre, believes Alberta is a diverse province and parents have the right to decide where their education dollars are going. “There are those who prefer public schools, others prefer separate schools, or private charter schools, or home schooling,” he added.

Although the NDP raised concerns about private school funding while in opposition, the party stated it will maintain the status quo after winning the 2015 election.

Red Deer’s two MLAs, Barb Miller and Kim Schreiner, could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Manning is concerned scarce resources are being siphoned off from public schools. When “every dollar is stretched as far as it will go,” she urged Albertans to pressure the government to stop funding private schools.

She noted her district already responds to various local needs, even having the Gateway Christian School.

While the intent of the Public Interest Alberta campaign is not to target separate school funding, Manning said Catholic schools, by virtue of their title, are also exclusionary.

But Paul Mason, superintendent of Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, said Catholic districts have existed for more than 100 years in Alberta and accept many non-Catholic students, including Hindu and Muslim ones.

As to the lobby to remove public education funding from private schools, Mason said, “any additional funding would be appreciated.”

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