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Calgary charter school operators happy with provincial investment, while some are concerned public education suffers


As part of Alberta’s 2022 budget, the province is spending nearly $75 million to build on Alberta public charter and collegiate schools over the next three years. While this is welcome news for some Calgary parents and charter school operators, there's concern that public education is being overlooked.

Education Minister Adriana Lagrange said the $47 million in capital spending and $25 million will be used to support leases and facility improvements "so existing public charter schools can grow and new public charter schools have the spaces they need to deliver the educational services to the students that want them," she said from Edmonton Tuesday.

A majority of Calgary charter schools operate out of former public school buildings.

Some Calgary parents welcomed  the investment.

"There's no tuition, they accept pretty much anybody as long as the funding's there for them. And it is great, great quality," said Stephen Miles, whose daughter attends Foundations for the Future Charter Academy.

The province says public charter schools give parents more choice and when asked if Alberta parents were choosing alternative or at-home education because they are saying no to the "wokeness" of public education, Premier Jason Kenney said there's "probably some of that."

He later added "let me be clear, I think we have a great education system right across the board. We have so many dedicated teachers. All together this is one of the reasons that pluralism in education makes sense.

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"Some parents may not like things that are going on at their local public school," Kenney added, "and they have options if that's the case."


Advocates for the charter school system say that the element of choice in education has a long history.

"The very first (Alberta) schools were Catholic schools, we added francophone schools after public schools then 27 years ago we added charter schools. It's just one more excellent choice," said Lynn Paradis, president of the Association of Alberta Public Charter Schools.

Leaders from Support Our Students, an education advocacy group, say that funding and support should go to the public education system.

"Alberta is the only province in Canada with charter schools but it is an American import system," said Medeana Moussa, executive director of Support our Students.

"This is the privatization of public education in real time. Charter schools are a pathway to privatization. It is money going to a few at the expense of the many," she added.

Public Interest Alberta agrees, saying in a statement: "The public education system in Alberta is world-class, but it’s suffered for years under the UCP government. Rather than invest into the system to match inflation and student population growth and reinvest to rectify the damage done by previous budget cuts, they have continued this failed experiment in privatization by stealth,” said executive director Bradley Lafortune.

He later added “all advocates of public education must reject the term 'school choice' and recognize it for what it really is: a market agenda that further entrenches two-tiered, Americanized education for Alberta’s students."

Paradis refuted this saying "we are absolutely very different from U.S. charter schools and that myth we'd really like to bust."


An education expert from the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary said Alberta's charter schools are in need of support.

"There's some funding (needs that are) necessary (and) that has not gone in. If you visit the charter system, you'll understand they have been the 'poor boy' of schooling in Alberta. So (the additional funding announcement) policy evens the playing field," said associate professor Eugene Kowch.

"It really is about community involvement, community governance and informed choice as an alternative to push forward innovation and these charter systems have to report to the minister using good research once a year, (while) the public school does not."

One parent who is also the board chair at Foundations for the Future Charter Academy said the funding will help admit students with special needs who were otherwise sent to the public school system.

"We are now finally in a position after over a decade of having out students be recognized they require the same support as students in every other public system," said Jeff Wilson.

The Alberta Teachers Association released a statement calling the government investment into charter schools "inequitable" and "unjustified."

In a majority of cases, charter school teachers are not part of the teachers' union and are not subject to their collective bargaining nor pay union dues.

Kowch says the funding represents 1.2 per cent of Alberta's education budget and 1.5 per cent of Alberta students. An estimated 10,000 attend charter or collegiate schools. Top Stories

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