EDMONTON—A coalition of organizations led by Public Interest Alberta and the Edmonton and District Labour Council today called on Edmonton City Council to reverse the decision to sell two pieces of public land to private schools.
“Public lands should be used in the public interest,” said Bruce Fafard, President of the Edmonton and District Labour Council. “The City of Edmonton should reverse this decision and follow its own policy that normally allocates surplus school sites to non-market housing.”
The group called on the Government of Alberta and municipalities across the province to create laws or policies to ensure surplus school sites can only be used for purposes in the public interest.
“Private schools with private agendas should not be the beneficiaries of surplus school sites,” said Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “These pieces of land should be used to strengthen communities, not further divide them. If private schools want to buy land, let them do so in private markets like all other private businesses”
The group highlighted the diversity of programming already available within Edmonton’s Public, Catholic, and Francophone school systems.
“Edmonton’s publicly-funded schools already offer programs specific to many faith-based communities, cultural groups, and languages,” said Elaine Cardinal, representing Unifor Local 52A. “Private schools, unlike schools in the Public, Catholic, and Francophone systems, may exclude students based on their own subjective criteria and are unaffordable for many Edmonton families."
Established communities in Edmonton have been faced with school closures in the past, and new private schools in their communities would further increase those pressures.
“These surplus sites are an opportunity for the City to build more family-friendly housing in established neighbourhoods to bolster attendance at existing schools and to help ensure they stay open,” French added.
Organizations in the coalition will be informing and mobilizing members of each of their organizations around the issue and are encouraging all Edmontonians to contact their City Councillors to reverse the plan to sell the two pieces of land to private schools.
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For more information, visit www.pialberta.org/publiclands
Members of the coalition are as follows:
- Public Interest Alberta
- Edmonton District Labour Council
- CUPE Local 784, representing maintenance and construction staff in Edmonton Public Schools
- CUPE Local 474, representing custodial staff in Edmonton Public Schools
- CUPE Local 3550, representing support staff in Edmonton Public Schools
- Unifor Local 52A, representing support staff in Edmonton Catholic Schools