Opinion: No need for more charter schools in Alberta

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The recent announcement by Jason Kenney and Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange again clearly shows their ultra-right approach in dealing with public services. This announcement shows the UCP’s approach to governing is the triumph of ideology over common sense. Twenty-five million is going to charter schools for additional operating funds and $47 million in new capital spending over three years for a total of $72 million.

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This occurs at the same time that Edmonton Public Schools received no money for new schools in this year’s budget. Alberta is the only Canadian province that funds charter schools, which are generally defined as alternative schools that receive government money, but are really just private schools that are subsidized by taxpayers.

Kenney’s comments that charter schools would provide better support for kids with special needs shows how out of touch he is in dealing with the education system in the province. Generally, it is the high-income parents that apply to charter schools. However, public school systems can be and are very diverse in their offerings to students and parents for their school choices. Besides regular programming, the following alternative education programs are offered by Edmonton Public Schools:

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With this number of programs already being offered, it should be obvious that there is no need for more charter schools.

My years as a public school trustee gave me great insight into the valuable and important work done by our teachers and teacher aides. I was always welcomed into the classrooms in my Ward D in Edmonton to observe ongoing classes or sometimes to participate in the students’ activities.

To see students who come from diverse economic, social, and cultural backgrounds working well with the professional staff gave me hope for a brighter future for these students. Clearly, there is no need to burden our public school system with more charter schools which often cater to higher-income parents — ultimately costing additional money that could be put to better use by the public school system to address the educational needs of all Albertans.

The latest announcement by the UCP adding more dollars to charter schools and fewer dollars to public school boards shows their ultra-right bias. Enough is enough.

Ray Martin was the leader of the Alberta NDP and the leader of the Opposition in the Alberta legislature from 1984-93. He has served four terms as an Alberta MLA and two terms as an Edmonton public school board trustee.

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