Alberta Education: An election bomb?

Alberta is ramping up for an election and while busty buses and money-for-nothing schemes are dominating the scandals, the new Education Act may be the thing that pisses enough people off to actually care about how this election turns out.

Alberta’s education laws haven’t been updated in decades and given last year’s slow resolution of bring secular schooling to Morinville, it’s long overdue. Yet the proposed act is drawing criticism on all sides.

The Catholic School Trustees Association fears that this is the first step to destroying their century-long privilege. Specifically, the act will allow the government to force secular and Catholic schools to share space when necessary and to amalgamate school boards.

Meanwhile, homeschoolers rallied 1500 people for a protest because they don’t want to have to teach they’re children to obey the Alberta Human Rights Act (seriously).  To placate these religious homeschooling extremists, the education minister caved and “offered an amendment on Monday to the preamble of the bill, recognizing parents’ right to raise their children within their ethical and religious traditions.” This was not enough to satisfy those who believe we can simply put two words like parents and rights together and suddenly have a codified law.

Nevertheless, the Alberta Liberal Party (who are the fourth party in terms of the number of candidates nominated) is skeptical of the government and fears it will further surrender to the Religious Right.

Kent Hehr, MLA for Calgary Buffalo, asked the education minister , Tom Lukaszuk, whether the province would soon provide “public funding of a school of Scientology or Druids or a school for witches and Wiccans?” Lukaszuk parroted the standard lines of “choice in education” in response.

Hehr pressed further asking if Lukaszuk was “comfortable with parents teaching that homosexuality is a sin or that evolution is not real?” Sadly, the education minister either dodged the question at best or admitted that parents have a right to poison the minds of their children.

Please, listen to the answer. I am comfortable with the fact that parents have the right of teaching their children and passing on their family values, their religious beliefs, and their morality. This is what we do as parents. Whether my daughter comes from a public school or whether she stays at home all day long, I still take responsibility for teaching her what is right and what is wrong, so that aspect has nothing to do with homeschooling. That is what we all as parents have the primary right to do, and we continue doing that.

Choice in education is a smokescreen for wasting money on inefficient two-tiered school systems. Alberta (and BC) currently grant ridiculous amounts of money to private schools, which can discriminate in enrolment and hiring under this absurd system. Furthermore, the United Nations Human Rights Committee condemned the separate school system in Alberta, Saksatchewan, and Ontario as discriminatory and called for the ending of separated school funding.

It will be interesting to see if the majority of Albertans (represented by neither the Homeschoolers or Catholic schools Associations) will stand up for secular, adequately funded education. Hell, it will be interesting alone to see if any party is that brave – the Alberta Party already missed that boat with their platform [pdf].