Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Province shouldn't pay for Private Schools

This was written by Kent Hehr who is MLA for Calgary-Buffalo and Liberal education critic in the Alberta Legislature.

by Kent Hehr

The public school system takes all types: it does not exclude on the basis of race, creed, background, language, origin or religion. No one is turned away. No one has to take an intelligence test. No one is refused admittance if they have a disability — unlike what happens in too many private schools.

The public school system is not exclusionary like Strathcona Tweedsmuir, charging their students $20,000 a year to attend high school. Of all the private schools funded in Alberta, roughly 39 per cent are based on elitism (i.e., they charge tuition), while 43 per cent are religious. This supports my position that, in the main, private schools separate children on the basis of wealth and the religion of their parents.

Furthermore, the stats used to support private school choice are questionable at best. If anyone bothered to do their research, they would know there are a wide variety of studies that show public education leads to both better outcomes for individuals and societies.

It is also ludicrous to cite Finland’s education system in support of the position that funding private schools is a good thing. Faith-based schools outside of the public system in Finland are extremely limited, because every school is required to be approved by a vote in their national assembly. Finnish schools cannot charge tuition, and they must accept everyone regardless of ability or faith. Let’s also remember that 97 per cent of the Finnish population are either Lutheran or have no religious affiliation at all — which is quite different compared to the multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious makeup of Alberta.

The Finland voucher system is based upon parents’ ability to select any public school that they want their children to attend in that country. We have the same thing here in Alberta. Parents are allowed to send their children to any public school that they would like (space permitting).

Government resources should be spent on services that move a society forward. A fully funded and properly managed public education system can, does and will provide Albertans with ample amounts of choice to accomplish this goal. Accordingly, there is no need to subsidize elitist education for the wealthy, religious schooling for myriad different belief systems, or any other reason individuals may feel that the public system is not for them.

It is time Albertans decide whether we want to separate our children on the basis of wealth and religion by subsidizing private schools or commit ourselves to the principle of equality of opportunity, which recognizes that whether you were born of a rich family or one that struggles, whether you are Christian or Muslim, whether your child has a physical or learning disability or is the next Albert Einstein, your child is going to get a fair chance to succeed in this province through government-funded world-class public education.

If parents do not feel that the public system is good enough for their children, well, that is in fact their choice — but let them pay for their choice at a private school. Don’t ask other Albertans to fund it.

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