When I first started thinking about running for the Edmonton Public School Board I wrote down a fairly innocuous and simple statement: “I believe all children should have equal access to a great education.”
It seemed pretty basic at the time. Who would disagree? For me this belief is informed by a core value of equality and a journalism career spent listening to people and learning how important access to education can be for individuals and communities across Canada and around the world. But I now realize how this hastily scribbled statement has informed my campaign and how it will continue to inform the decisions I will make if elected to the Edmonton Public School Board on October 16.
By making a statement about equal access to public education I also feel it imperative that I make a clear statement about where public money — our money as taxpayers — should be spent. To me, the math equation is pretty simple: public money equals public education.
In other words, it is my opinion that public money should not be spent to subsidize the cost of private school education in Alberta. Currently, more than $100 million of taxpayer dollars are spent annually on private schools in our province, the highest rate of funding per student in the country. So much about the success and vibrancy of our education system relies on funding that is all too scarce all too often. We need that private school investment in the public school system.
Let me clear about another thing. I support a parent’s choice to enrol their child in a private school and pay the associated tuition costs. Every parent should have the right to choose private school… as long as they have the financial means to cover the costs without relying on the public purse. If elected I will advocate for a gradual reduction of public funding for private schools with a goal of defunding private schools over time. Parents whose children attend private schools will still have a choice: they can pay higher tuition fees or enrol their kids in a public school.
Other provinces, Ontario and the Maritime provinces for example, do not fund private schools and in Ontario’s case parents there have hundreds of private schools to choose from. Clearly, a lack of taxpayer dollars in the private system has not prevented the business of private schools in Ontario from thriving. There’s no reason Alberta can’t adopt the same approach.
If elected Trustee I will advocate that Alberta private schools wean themselves slowly off the public purse. To ensure our public education system in this province remains strong requires a firm commitment to the ideals of public education, the idea that all children deserve equal access to a great education that’s well funded and accessible.