EDMONTON – The Edmonton Public School Board is asking the province to phase out public funding for private schools in Alberta.
In a motion passed at a meeting Tuesday afternoon, the Board of Trustees decided to send a letter to Education Minister David Eggen urging him to phase out the public subsidy to private schools and reinvest the money in public education.
“I don’t want to see any of our tax dollars go to this choice,” trustee Michael Janz said.
“Last year, the Alberta government allocated over $200 million in public tax dollars to private schools in a per student allocation,” read the motion passed by the board. “Until this public subsidy was established, parents used to have to pay the full freight of tuition if they chose to opt out of the public system for a private school.
There are approximately 100 accredited, funded private schools in Alberta. Alberta’s Ministry of Education said through the most recent budget, funding is projected to reach $155 million in the 2016-17 school year. That number does not include private early childhood services providers.
“While we acknowledge that private schools have a right to exist, we do not believe they have a right to a public subsidy. If a parent wants to choose a different program or educational journey, or even a boarding school, that is their right to choose and pay for themselves,” read the motion passed by the EPSB.
The EPSB is also asking Eggen to incorporate charter schools into public school boards. There are 13 charter schools in Alberta: three in Edmonton, one southwest of Stony Plain, one in Sherwood Park, and eight in southern Alberta. Funding for charter schools is projected to reach $86 million in the next school year.
A recent survey commissioned by Progress Alberta showed 61 per cent of respondents do not support public money going toward private schools. When asked if they support public funds going toward charter schools, 47 per cent of respondents said no.
“We think that we should be phasing out private schools, that we should be absorbing charter schools back into the public system,” Duncan Kinney with Progress Alberta said.
Private schools get about 60 per cent of their operating budget from the province, but no capital money.
In an interview with Global News on Monday, Eggen said alternative school systems still have a place in Alberta.
“We need all the capacity we have in Alberta for high-quality education. Enrolment is going up dramatically,” Eggen said.
“I’m trying to get the capacity I need to educate our growing enrolment and to ensure that alternative schools are providing some unique contribution to our school system.”
Eggen maintained funding for private and charter schools wasn’t cut in the province’s most recent budget and that he has no plans to cut funding in the future.
Watch below: Survey shows 61% of Albertans don’t support public money for private schools
The EPSB’s letter will be sent to Eggen by May 6.
With files from Tony Tighe and Quinn Ohler, Global News.