We are asking our members and supporters to write to the Minister of Education, and to their MLAs, encouraging them to add our proposed new sections to the Education Act.
As explained in the previous post, we think there are many good things about the new Act, but also that the Act leaves open the possibility of attacks on school choice at the school board level.
Below is an example letter that you can use to contact the Minister of Education (at email@example.com):
Dear Minister Johnson;
Thank you for the good work you are doing in the legislature. As a parent, I believe strongly in the importance of protecting school choice and parental authority in Alberta’s education system. I believe that parents should be able to choose the educational options that their children use, and that there should exist a broad spectrum of options, including secular public, alternative, Catholic, charter, independent, and home schools. Parents should be able to exercise choice within and between these options. Governments and school boards should not prevent schools from teaching the values that they regard as fundamental. Alberta’s education system is currently one of the most choice-oriented education systems in North America, and I applaud your government for past good work in this regard. I want to see that maintained and enhanced.
I was very pleased to see that Bill 3, unlike Bill 2, does not directly attack school choice. The language in Bill 2 could really have had a chilling effect on the discussion of certain issues, and prevented Catholic or alternative schools from teachings about their religious traditions. I am glad to see those sections reworked in this new act. I also applaud the inclusion of language which specifically recognizes the role of parents in education.
Unfortunately, while this Act does not in itself contain an attack on school choice, it does leave the door open to attacks by school boards on the rights of parents and students to choose educational options which accords with their perspective. The spirit of this bill is good, but the absence of any ‘teeth’ in Section 32, and the lack of any mention in Section 33 of an obligation on the part of school boards to protect and promote school choice means that the door is left open for local school boards to take away the rights recognized in Section 32. The concern is not what the bill says, but the opportunities left open by what the bill does not say.
I am part of an organization called “Parents for Choice in Education”, which has proposed the addition of 3 new Subsections to Section 33, which explicitly lay out the obligations of school boards when it comes to school choice, diversity, and parental authority. These sections are as follows
33(5) A board shall not limit or restrict the right of an alternative school or program to teach or convey a social, cultural, or religious viewpoint, provided that that viewpoint does not conflict with Section 16 of this act and provided that parents are provided with a reasonable opportunity to find out what viewpoints are being expressed in the classroom.
33(6) A board shall not limit or restrict the right of a student to express viewpoints or opinions on any issue or topic within time allocated for student questions or discussion or outside of classroom time, provided that that viewpoint does not conflict with Section 16 of this act.
33(7) A board shall give parents the greatest possible degree of school and program choice.
In my view, the addition of these sections to Bill 3 would protect schools, programs, and parents from potential attacks on choice by school boards. Would you consider adding these sections, through an amendment?
Thank you for your time and your consideration of this proposal.