CALGARY -- The province bills the new Choice in Education Act as recognition of human rights and diversity in education, but critics call it an attempt to create distrust in order to break up the public education system.

The act — Bill 15 — will lower the barriers to establishing new charter schools by allowing applicants to bypass local school boards and apply directly to the minister.

It would also reduce some of the curriculum reporting requirements and encourage the formation of vocational charter schools.

Premier Jason Kenney has repeatedly touted growth in skilled trades opportunities and more experiential learning and apprenticeship streams as part of Alberta’s secondary school system.

Under the new bill, parents wishing to homeschool will no longer have to have their education plan approved by trained educators, but will still have to submit it. Parents will still have to notify the province of their intent to homeschool each year.

Homeschooled students will also have a choice in whether to write diploma exams to have their education recognized.

Critics of the changes say it is part of a longer play to weaken public education and create new markets.

“It creates distrust,” says Barbara Silva of Save our Schools. “It undermines it so we want something else.

“It allows government to divest responsibility for public education."

Part of the province's public explanation for the legislation was a survey completed by 57,000 interested Albertans, which suggested just over 60 per cent were satisfied with the choice in education choices in the province.

The bill’s preamble also includes language meant to reinforce parents as the primary decision makers when it comes to education, reading: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”