Fiscal Situation Means 'Tough Choices' in Education

Alberta's provincial government has signaled that the provincial budget, scheduled to be released in early March, will include some 'tough choices'. Because of the status of energy revenues, the government will not be taking in nearly as much money as they expected to. The Minister of Education has suggested that the fiscal situation may force him to impose a contract on teachers. This could lead to labour unrest.
In our view, when it comes to education, the government need to repudiate the idea of full day or mandatory kindergarten. This would draw scarce resources away from classrooms. Let parents have choice in this area, and focus resources where they can make the greatest impact. Also, it is important that the government continue to offer funding for independent schools and home educators. Without this funding in place, fees would go up, and many of these students might be forced to attend public schools, in which educating them is much more expensive. As much as possible, the government should focus resources on front line educational services, and allow parents to make choices about where they send their kids.
The financial situation may lead to calls for restrictions on choice, by those who will use any pre-text to promote a one-size-fits-all approach to education. We must resist these calls. School choice does not impose additional costs on the system. In many cases, it saves the system money. For example, a student being home schooled does not cost the system as much.
Let's hope that the government does the right thing with this budget by focusing resources on front lines and critical services, and resists pressures to limit choice.