Editor’s note: This commentary appeared Sunday on edmontonjournal.com.
In Alberta, we agree collectively to pay out of the public purse to fund an education system that will provide a solid foundation for our children. An education that will equip them to be active, positive members of our society.
Since our inception as a province, parents have had some educational choices available to them, and over the past five decades this slate of choices has expanded.
This approach has served Alberta well. We consistently score high when compared to other systems both nationally and internationally, and parents have confidence in their school as seen on the results of annual surveys that Alberta Education compiles. Alberta’s approach also aligns with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26, which recognizes everyone’s right to education, government’s responsibility to fund that education, and the parents’ prior right to choose the kind of education given to their children.
Recently, a teachers’ union executive wrote an op-ed bemoaning the use of tax dollars to support the education of students in independent (private) schools. He put forward a worn-out old argument that “public” dollars should be reallocated to the public system, implying there would be money saved that would benefit the majority over the minority. But that isn’t the case; such a move would harm all Albertans.
In Alberta, it costs around $13,000/year in public dollars to educate a student once education, capital and transportation costs are factored into the equation. Independent schools receive around $5,200 in publicly funded education grants.
The public system, which includes the choice of Catholic or francophone education, has 93% of the students in Alberta, and receives 95.8% of the funding.
It’s already the most robustly funded component within our system. Currently, there are around 46,000 students who are registered with an independent school or early childhood services program. This constitutes 6.4% of Alberta’s students, but only costs 4.2% of overall provincial funding.
If these students had to all shift over to their neighbourhood public school, it would cost Albertans about $360 million more. Per year.
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