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Education in the news

March 20, 2019 ATA News Staff

In the lead-up to an anticipated provincial election, the ATA News is tracking news coverage related to education, in an effort to help members stay abreast of the various parties’ views. The following excerpts, slightly modified to fit this context, are from stories that made headlines in late February and early March.

NDP limiting school choice by refusing charter school applications, UCP says

A United Conservative Party government would debate changing Alberta’s charter school regulations, which spell out standards, application requirements and limit the number of schools to 15.

UCP education critic and Drayton Valley–Devon MLA Mark Smith said in an interview the NDP government has obstructed education choices in the province by refusing to approve applicants who believed they met all the requirements to found new charter schools.

There are 13 charter schools currently operating in 23 buildings in the province, most of which are in Edmonton and Calgary. In an email, Education Minister David Eggen said there is no need to lift the cap since the number of schools hasn’t reached the limit.

Charter schools must offer a unique program unavailable in public schools.

Edmonton Journal, March 4

Alberta Party wants mandatory vaccinations

The Alberta Party wants to make vaccinations mandatory for children enrolled in publicly funded schools.

“We send our kids to school to learn, not to get sick,” said leader Stephen Mandel, who rolled out the party’s latest election platform promise.

An Alberta Party government would force parents to prove they have followed the Alberta Health Services’ routine immunization schedule in order to register children in school. The rule would apply to any school board receiving public funding, including public, Catholic, francophone, private and charter schools. The province doesn’t think it’s fair to penalize students for decisions made by their parents, said Leah Holoiday, the premier’s director of communications. She referenced NDP legislation passed in 2016 that aims to help schools respond faster to vaccine-preventable outbreaks.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney said his party believes all children should be vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption, but stopped short of saying the UCP would institute mandatory vaccines.

Calgary Herald, March 4

Eggen issues order to ban seclusion rooms in Alberta schools

Education Minister David Eggen has issued a ministerial order banning the use of seclusion rooms in Alberta schools starting Sept. 1. School boards will be required to report all existing rooms to the province. Alberta Education will do inspections and ensure schools are complying with the order. However, Eggen is allowing schools to apply for an exemption on a case-by-case basis only, if the parents of the child support it.

A review was launched after a Sherwood Park couple sued the government. They say their 12-year-old son was found covered in his own feces when he was locked in a seclusion room. Inclusion Alberta, an advocacy group for people with disabilities, had called for a ban. The group is pleased with Eggen’s ministerial order but wary about his decision to allow exemptions.

CBC News, March 1

Education minister cancels high school credit clawbacks

Alberta’s education minister has cancelled an $11.3-million clawback from 59 school boards whose students took too many high school credits last year. Frustrated school board trustees and superintendents said they may cancel programs and limit options for high school students after receiving notices saying Alberta Education was holding back funding for every student who earned more than 45 credit enrolment units during the 2017/18 school year. The education minister reversed course on Friday, saying the move had “unintended consequences” and was now under review.

The new 45 CEU cap took effect in September 2017. Previously, the government funded high schools for students to take up to 60 credits in a 12-month period. Edmonton Public Schools was set to lose $2.1 million after 10 per cent of high school students earned more than 45 CEUs. Edmonton Catholic Schools had more than 1,000 students exceed the cap, and was about to lose $803,000 this year.

School boards and district leaders, who have raised concerns about the lower credit cap since its introduction, were placated by the move.

Edmonton Journal, Feb. 20

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