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Alberta Takes a Step Forward in Driving Education Innovation


May 28, 2020 

Bill 15, Alberta’s new Choice in Education Act, makes some important progress in developing a truly pluralist education ecosystem in the province. If passed, the bill would provide three key things:

  • First-time recognition by the Alberta government that independent schools are integral to public education.
  • Official recognition by the Alberta government of parents’ proper role in directing their children’s education.
  • New flexibility for schooling at home – a method of education that fulfills the needs of many families whose children have unique needs.

Still, there is more the Alberta government can do to develop a system that more robustly responds to families needs. Two key steps would be:

  • To open the door to the establishment for more independent schools through streamlined administrative and regulatory requirements, just as it is doing for charter schools through Bill 15.
  • To remove barriers for enrollment in independent schools – especially for low-income and rural residents as well as families with kids who have special needs. This can be achieved through offering mobility benefits to rural families who don’t have access to independent schools clustered in big cities and targeting more benefits to families with low incomes or kids with special needs to make the schooling that best fits their needs more affordable.

Why is it important to support independent schools in Alberta?

Independent schools over-contribute to the public good. For example, research shows they produce more civically-engaged graduates who volunteer and give more of their financial resources than their public school peers. Independent schools also improve economic equality. In advanced economies where independent schools receive greater proportions of taxpayer funding, the socioeconomic disparities between government and non-government schools disappears.

“Independent schools are integral to public education, governments need to respect parents’ role in directing their children’s education, and schooling at home is a legitimate option for many families,” said Michael Van Pelt, President and CEO of public policy think tank Cardus. “That’s a good start, but we also want to see Alberta embrace a more diverse and robust education ecosystem that families can affordably access to meet their diverse needs.”

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