>EDMONTON—Representatives of Public Interest Alberta (PIA) called on Premier Redford to step in and rescind a recent action by Alberta’s Minister of Education Jeff Johnson which amounts to bullying urban school boards into subsidizing charter schools.
“We have grown used to the Minister of Education’s disdain for school boards, his willingness to impose legislated settlements, and his constant micro-management, but his latest action amounts to outright bullying to promote his ideological agenda of charter schools, and it’s time for Premier Redford to step in,” said PIA Board Chair Larry Booi.
Booi stated, “What the minister has done is quite clear: he has decided to hold hostage new school construction in Edmonton and Calgary, until the boards agree to subsidize the further development of charter schools in their area – despite the fact that these same boards are cutting large numbers of teachers and support staff in order to deal with government-mandated budget cuts.” He added, “The minister has been promoting his own ideological agenda of charter schools, and clearly he sees no problem in this kind of fiscal hostage-taking. His conduct is utterly inappropriate for a Minister of the Crown, and the Premier has an obligation to turn the situation around.”
PIA Executive Director Bill Moore-Kilgannon said, “The minister’s unrelenting promotion of charter schools is both unnecessary and misguided. Alberta simply does not need charter schools, let alone more of them. There are ample opportunities within Alberta’s public and separate schools to promote alternative schools and programs, and he is trying to import an American model that is simply inappropriate to this province.”
Moore-Kilgannon added, “In parts of the United States, right-wing groups are pressuring public school boards to close so-called ‘struggling’ public schools, and to allow charter schools to open in their place. Here we have a minister taking a step in the same general direction. The minister first began pushing a vague and inappropriate ‘research’ role for charter schools, and now he is bullying school boards into providing resources for them. Instead of supporting public education, he is blatantly promoting his ideological alternative, at public expense. It’s just wrong, and it has to be stopped.”
Booi stated, “Premier Redford was elected on a promise to provide stable and predictable funding to school boards, and she has walked away from that promise. She needs to at least prevent further damage to public education by telling her education minister to take back these regressive actions.”