Public Interest Alberta’s Executive Director Joel French issued a sharp warning about the UCP government’s new legislation to expand charter schools in the province.
“It is crucial that members of the public take a close look at Bill 8, which unquestionably will have the effect of further undermining our public school systems and the work that they do with Alberta’s children and youth, “ said French.
He stated, “Under the specious guise of promoting more ‘choice,’ the expansion of charter schools will in fact create even more ‘private schools masquerading as public schools,’ which is what charter schools really are.”
French pointed out that Alberta’s charter schools are fully funded by public money, but are allowed to behave as private schools in two key ways: they can choose their students (and reject others,) while at the same time they are not accountable to democratically elected school boards – in contrast to our public systems which must accept all students, and are fully accountable through elected representatives.
“This is no less than privatization by stealth,” said French. “Why would we want to go in this direction instead of using these scarce funds to better support our Public, Catholic, and Francophone systems, especially when they are struggling with inadequate resources while trying to deal with the real issues that concern parents and teachers – large class sizes and inadequate support for children with special needs?”
French also questioned the basic purpose for charter schools, stating, “What problem is it that charter schools are an attempt to solve? Our school systems are currently allowed to create a wide range of alternative schools and programs, and do so through elected boards where parents and the public have a say and can hold them accountable. Why should we use public funds to fully subsidize yet another form of private schooling in disguise?”
French stated, “There is a good reason why no other province has created charter schools since Alberta introduced them in 1994 – they are an enormously contentious American creation designed to deal with issues in U.S. education, and are not only unnecessary but inappropriate for Canadian public education.”
French called on parents, teachers, trustees, students and those who care about the importance of strong public education to work together in pressuring the provincial government to withdraw the proposal to lift the cap on charter schools and to instead engage in a broader discussion about how to better support Alberta’s vital system of public education in challenging times.