A privately run Alberta home schooling agency at the centre of a million-dollar spending scandal says it has done nothing wrong.
The Wisdom Home Schooling Society, in a news release, says it has been doing exemplary work and that the province has pulled its funding based on half-truths.
Wisdom oversaw home-schooling for about 3,500 students and taught another 13 students in a school setting in Cold Lake.
The society was subcontracted by the publicly funded Trinity Christian School Association, which receives more than $5 million a year from taxpayers.
A government report this week stated that for years almost all of the money given to Trinity was being redirected to Wisdom with no oversight or accountability.
Education Minister David Eggen explained: “It is public money and ultimately it’s the source where we send the cheque to that’s responsible for that.”
The report says most of the money was then spent inappropriately on lavish per diems, social events, funeral and babysitting expenses, and that almost a million dollars meant for home-schooling parents was held back.
Gino Rodrigues, whose children have been home-schooled for the last three years under Trinity/Wisdom, said he received a five-minute recorded phone message alerting him the school was shut down.
“I got a 3 p.m. robocall telling me that my kids no longer have a school. That’s how all parents found out. I thought that was deplorable, it was ridiculous.”
Rodrigues believes the education minister acted too hastily. He thinks action should not have been taken until the outcome of an RCMP investigation.
“I think the minister, David Eggen, should have taken more time. He wouldn’t just go and cancel a school, go to St. Joe’s and say: ‘All you students have to leave, all you teachers are now out of a job,’ and shut down the school and yet he did that to me and my kids and my family.
“He just gave us a robocall, told us that our kids no longer have a school to go to and we have two weeks to find an alternate school.”
His wife, LaRae Rodrigues, said the phone call left her speechless.
“Do we cry? Do we yell? Do we go on social media and blast? What do we do? What do we do? They left us hanging.”
LaRae said two weeks is insufficient time for her to find new homeschooling boards for her three children.
“With all these kids that are misplaced, you have all these boards where these homeschoolers have to go to – but they’re full.”
In terms of the report on inappropriate spending, Gino said he won’t be taking the government’s word but will wait for the results of a full investigation.
“Funding aside … It will be bad if they did do that, but school-wise, education-wise, they were always there for us.”
Wisdom is asking parents to have some patience as they sort out what’s happened. The Rodrigues family is doing just that.
“We’re going to stick with them for right now and wait and see what happens – because nobody knows what’s going on.”
With files from Emily Mertz and Sarah Kraus, Global News