Bravo to our Calgary Public School trustees for NOT following in the footsteps of the Edmonton Public Board and making a meaningless motion to defund Private Schools. You might want to bookmark this one! ARTICS is praising Trustees for NOT doing something.
Every few years, the debate surfaces. This year, spurred on by a motion put forward in the legislature by PC leader Ric McIver that commits the government to nothing. McIver introduced Private Member’s Motion No. 504 to urge the government “to affirm its commitment to allowing parents the choice of educational delivery for their children, including home, charter, private, francophone, separate, or public education programs“. The Government and Education Minister had already said publicly that the funding for Privates and Charters (choice) would be supported in the 2016-2017 Provincial Budget, which it was.
Before anyone spoke a word in the house about this motion, Public Interest Alberta came out with a Blog post condemning the funding of Private and Charter schools, calling on the Government to defund them all now. The Fraser institute published their own findings which spurred debate on Twitter spurred on by directors of Public Interest Alberta and ATA members with one former PC cabinet minister on the topic. As Churchill famously said, “The first casualty of war is the truth”. This war of words is decades old in this province.
Some Calgary education advocates got into it devolving unfairly into personal attacks. It is a shame that Union and political differences can get emotions running so high. So to the question, would defunding private schools help public education? The PIA blog states “Last year the Alberta government gave over $200 million in public funds to private schools.” In a recent Calgary Herald article, “Lisa Davis, vice-president of CAPSC, said if the CBE reduced the percentage of its $1.3 billion budget split between administrative costs and school and instructional supports to the same level of the Calgary Catholic School District’s, it would mean an extra $160 million that could go back into classrooms.”
For some context, 4% of Albertans choose Private Schools, and the total overall budget for the Province to private schools is $200 Million. The Calgary Board of Education appears to outspend the Calgary Catholic District in administration alone to the tune of $160 million. The answer is clear that defunding private schools would not make public education better, nor would it necessarily get to students on the front lines who need special supports. A funding review of not how much each board gets, but how it is distributed and how it is spent is something that the public would benefit from. Afterall, it is the law that only 4% of school funding should be spent on administration. That is clearly not the case with Alberta’s largest school board. That is clearly laid out in the above mentioned Calgary Herald article. Those who advocate for a strong Public Education system are taking their eyes off the ball if they argue that defunding Private Schools is better for the Public system.
If Parents and average Calgarians want to help make Public Education the best it can be, the focus should clearly be on your local public school board. Look at what they spend, where they spend it and where the priority of your trustees and administration lies. Make certain your board knows your priorities and shares your priorities. Get engaged at election time and elect someone who shares your educational priorities. Stay tuned and we will share important information to help you get involved with that. ARTICS has and will always advocate for our Public School Board to be Accountable, Transparent and Responsive to encourage and help citizens to run as a Trustee or help a campaign. CAPSC has done a fantastic job this year in advocating for our Students and Parents, pointing out issues publicly and helping parents get their voices heard. SOS seems bent on getting all the money sent to the Calgary Board of Education to do with it what they will. A wise person once said, you’ll never solve money problems with more money. If you make the public system the best choice then the alternatives won’t need to be there.