News / Calgary

Alberta Teachers' Association says public funding for private schools 'is a problem'

CORRECTION:  Alternative school fees

Incorrect information appeared in a story on page 6 of the June 15 edition of Metro Calgary about education funding. While each charges parents a variety of fees, Heritage Christian Academy and Trinity Christian School both fall under the domain of alternative schools, not private schools, in Alberta’s education system. Annual costs for students in Grade 1 to Grade 9 at Trinity Christian amount to $5,018 for the first child and less for additional children, plus other one-time fees, according to the school’s fee schedule. There are various stated fees for enrolment at Heritage Christian Academy, as well, including a $3,210 “Christian Education Program Contribution” for a single non-kindergarten student as well as other one-time fees.

Metro regrets the errors in the original story.

Following new education minister David Eggen’s recent announcement that funding models are to stay static for the time being, the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) maintains private schools charging their own tuition fees shouldn’t receive public funding.

ATA president Mark Ramsankar said while the ATA has no qualms with private schools in general, supporting private schools with public funds continues to be a problem.

“Public dollars should be going to support families with children who can’t afford private schools,” Ramsankar said. “If you’re going to be in the public system as a charter school, then you shouldn’t be allowed to charge fees.”

Tuition for private schools in Calgary can range widely.

[OMITTED due to incorrect reference]

Private schools are also eligible for 60 to 70 per cent of per-student funding public schools receive from the government.

With the NDP government’s recent $103-million investment into the education system, the $6 million put back into private schools, charter schools and Early Childhood Services operators restored any previous cuts to education made by the former PC government.

As opposition last year, the NDP criticized the amount of public dollars being used to fund private schools. Now, the newly minted education minister said things are to “remain status quo.”

Deron Bilous, Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview MLA and former NDP education critic, firmly stated in the legislature March 2014 that private schools shouldn’t receive public funding.

“You know, we're draining money from the public system to feed the private system,” Bilous said then. “If there are parents and families that want to put their kids in private school, that's fine. They can. Then pay for it.”

Almost a year later, minister Eggen is singing a different tune, stating that the number of “delivery methods” in Alberta’s education system “allows parents to select the method that they feel will best help their child reach his or her potential.”

Statements from Eggen noted that any future discussions around rollbacks to funding would require a broader policy discussion.

“Right now, Albertans are looking for stability in the education system,” Eggen said. “I look forward to further discussions with partner organizations — including the Alberta Teachers’ Association — parents and other education experts about the delivery model for education in our province.”

ATA’s Ramsankar added that while the government shouldn’t be “supplementing private education for a select few,” for now, status quo is as good as it’s going to get.

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