Red Deer Public School Board votes 4-3 in favour of advocating for unifying Alberta system

Call for public board to offer Catholic and other faith programming removed from motion before vote

Red Deer Public Schools will advocate for a single publicly funded education system.

By a narrow 4-3 vote, the board of trustees voted in support of a unified school system on Wednesday. The vote came after trustee Diane Maculay presented a notice of motion calling for the unification on April 12.

“What it means is that we would advocate for one publicly funded system that is completely inclusive of everybody. It would mean one system that is publicly funded. And all of the other systems, if you wish to have them you can have them, they just don’t receive public funding,” said school board chair Bev Manning after the vote.

The original motion also called for the board to offer Catholic programs as well as other faith and program options was removed from the motion as part of an amendment by trustee Bill Stuebing.

Those opposed to the motion questioned whether it was the role of the board to advocate on the issue.

Supporting trustees felt public school boards should champion a single publicly funded education system.

“This is the perfect time to take a look at what is best for students in Alberta,” said Macaulay, in an interview before the vote. “How can we make our education system more fair, more equitable and make sure resources stay in the classroom.

“Other provinces have (merged). Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario are the only ones that haven’t.”

“This isn’t about politics, this isn’t about religion,” said Macaulay. “It’s about what’s best for our students.”

Manning said religious study is still possible within a single public system. Red Deer Public currently has a religious program at Gateway Christian School that operates under the school district’s rules, regulations, policies and procedures.

“It is openly accepting of anybody that wishes to attend. You don’t have to meet any criteria or guidelines to get in,” Manning said.

Last month the school board withdrew its membership from the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta in part because of a dissatisfaction in how the association pursued its goal of unifying Alberta’s school system.

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