Gateway Gazette

Choice in Education Makes our Province Stronger

 

During the past election campaign, Wildrose firmly stood behind defending parental choice in education.

Public, Catholic, Independent, Charter and Home Education options all play a critical role in our education system.

This diversity of choice gives parents viable and effective alternatives, while improving overall learning outcomes.

At the end of the day, a parent knows what school setting will allow their child to thrive. It’s about providing parents with the choice to make decisions about their children’s education, not the state granting permission.

Whether it’s a child who has a passion for the arts, wants to spend more time learning math or has complex learning needs, a wide range of education choices for each child makes our education system stronger.

Despite the NDP early in its mandate promising to maintain current funding levels for each of these legitimate options in education, cracks are beginning to show.

Now more than ever, Albertan needs educational choice and flexibility to allow parents to choose the best possible educational model for their children.

Part of that choice is realizing that children are not uniform, and need different approaches to be successful in school.

I am seriously concerned that our government is starting to take steps to undermine our world-class system.

While in opposition, the NDP record of protecting parental choice leaves something to be desired. At one time, the Premier stated, “Our caucus is steadfastly opposed to private schooling and particularly steadfastly opposed to public dollars supporting private schooling.”

Recently in the legislature, the NDP government put forward an amendment to a motion that would be a first step in deconstructing the current education system all Albertans enjoy today.

Of all of the values that we uphold in this province, freedom is one of the greatest. We have a clear commitment to a balanced, responsible understanding of freedom, a responsible freedom that understands every citizen must be free to speak to their conscience, to raise their family, to pursue their faith and to be able to make the educational choices that will best support their children.

The amendment to Motion 504 attacks this balance by making the Minister of Education and the system of Public Education the twin gatekeepers between parents and their right to freely choose the educational choices that will best meet their children’s’ needs.

I’m very committed to preserving our current system which places a high value on educational diversity supported by government funding. We have an enviable system that supports the spectrum from Designated Special Education Programs to faith animated programs to sports and international education to special pedagogic models. Each one of these, whether public, separate, independent, charter, Designated Special Education, Francophone or alternative add to the public good.

Just as a basketball team needs a full complement of diverse players and skills, and each individual has a special part to play, so too our school system should have a full complement of different education options available to meet increasingly diverse student learning needs.

Wildrose will continue to urge the government to put common sense over ideology, and continue to fund choice in education.

Our schools and our province are the better for it.

Mark Smith is the Wildrose Shadow Education Minister and MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon

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