Support Our Students Calls for End of Charter School Experiment: Pick a Lane As Fully Public or Private
Since their introduction in 1994, Alberta charter schools have received 100% per student funding of public dollars but have been granted different regulations than public school boards. Charter schools are not obligated to admit every applicant, and can deny entry based on entrance exams or other factors. Charter schools are also governed by closed entities that are not democratically elected by the population at large. As such, they are publicly funded but privately operated. Neither fully public nor fully private.
Under this hybrid, charter schools divert funding from public community schools for exclusive interests, not accessible to many. With the lifting of the charter authority cap by the United Conservative Government, at least 3 new charter schools have been approved with more waiting in the wings. Their Choice in Education Act now permits charter applications to bypass local public school boards and charters are granted at the sole discretion of the Minister of Education.
Lack of transparency, absent of open evaluation of their original mandate, and duplicity of programming that exists in the public system are all red flags. There is only one pot of money; funding that goes to charter schools is being diverted from community schools that already have capital and operational deficits. Charters pose a real and imminent threat to neighbourhood schools by marketing to families and siphoning off students, forcing public school closures. This has already happened in Calgary and is spreading into rural municipalities. A student living across the street from a charter school may be denied access and may now have to bus to the closest public school outside of their area.
Originally, the charter experiment was supposed to test innovations to be brought back to the public system. But the process was never properly established and has been obscured by lack of transparency. The charter experiment has run its course. The solution to making public schools more equitable is expanding accommodations and being more inclusive. The answer is not exclusive charter schools that self-select students using public funds.
"Alberta is the only province in Canada with charter schools but it is an American import system. This is the accelerated erosion of public education in real time. Charter schools are a pathway to a tiered system that fragments neighbourhoods and societies. It is money going to a few at the expense of the many.” - Medeana Moussa, Executive Director, Support Our Students Alberta
For 7 years, Support Our Students has been sounding the alarm on the creeping agenda to erode public education in Alberta. The privatization agenda of education has been well documented, and played out disastrously in the US. High-quality, equitable public education accessible to all is a fundamental pillar of democracy. Charter schools are an affront to the integrity of public education in Alberta. Their rapid expansion without public oversight is accelerating the destabilization of public education. Charters need to pick a lane. It’s time to fold them into the public system or declare them true private enterprises.
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