There are no public charter schools in Red Deer, but about 10,000 students are enrolled at 15 public charter schools elsewhere in Alberta, with one more set to open in Calgary this year. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

There are no public charter schools in Red Deer, but about 10,000 students are enrolled at 15 public charter schools elsewhere in Alberta, with one more set to open in Calgary this year. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Public charter schools receive added support from the province

‘We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to education’ says Kenney

The province continues to defend its new funding for public charter schools.

The 2022 provincial budget included $25 million in operating funding and $47 million in capital investment over the next three years to support public charter school expansions and collegiate programs.

“Albertans believe in this province’s tradition of school choice. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to education. We also believe that parents know best what kind of education their kids should receive,” said Premier Jason Kenney at a press conference at Aurora Academic Charter School in Edmonton on Tuesday.

There are no public charter schools in Red Deer, but about 10,000 students are enrolled at 15 public charter schools elsewhere in Alberta, with one more set to open in Calgary this year.

Kenney said another 15,000 students are on charter school waiting lists, and that’s why the UCP ran on a commitment to expand choice in education and lifted the legislative cap in place since 1994 to allow more charter schools to be established.

Related:

Critics say provincial budget doesn’t put students first

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said if the UCP government was committed to parental choice it would not be sabotaging public education.

“The UCP is refusing to put enough teachers into schools that we already have. They’re refusing to modernize or build public schools in growing communities. This is sabotage,” Hoffman said.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said public charter schools focus on a learning style, teaching style, approach or philosophy that is not already being offered by the public or separate school boards where the public charter is located.

“Funding through budget 2022 will be used to support leases and facility improvements so existing public charter schools can grow, and new public charter schools have the spaces they need to deliver education services to the students that want them,” LaGrange said.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) says charter schools should be incorporated as alternative programs within publicly governed and administered school boards, and that all teachers should be full and active members of a unified profession.

“The government is dedicating $72 million in new funding to just 16 schools. This is an inequitable, unjustified, ideological investment that epitomizes how privatization comes at the expense of public education,” said ATA president Jason Schilling.

The ATA says a number of charter schools also use admission criteria, IQ tests or performance assessments to restrict access, and many do not accept students with specialized learning needs.

Related:

Alberta introduces bill to change rules on charter schools, home-schooling

Public Interest Alberta says Alberta is the only Canadian province to adopt the American-style charter school system.

“Today’s charter school expansion announcement from the UCP government is just the latest example of their destructive attacks on public education in Alberta. Rather than invest into the system to match inflation and student population growth and reinvest to rectify the damage done by previous budget cuts, they have continued this failed experiment in privatization by stealth,” said executive director Bradley Lafortune.

But Lynne Paradis, superintendent of Suzuki Charter School in Edmonton, said charter schools in Alberta are very different from those in the U.S.

“In the United States, charter schools began because of problems in public schools, and they are largely funded by industry, private donation. They are very much like private schools. This province, from the start, has used the approach that charter schools are public schools,” said Paradis, a former administrator with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.

The province says public charter schools cannot charge tuition fees. However, they may charge fees and costs in alignment with the Education Act, like other public school authorities.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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