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EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada (ChurchMilitant.com) - Politicians in Alberta, Canada are dismantling a former politician's anti-Christian education policies and seeking to provide parents with the freedom to educate their children as they see fit.
Elected in April 2019, Alberta's education minister Adriana LaGrange is making good on an election promise by introducing a bill titled the Education Choice Act, Bill 15, which recognizes the rights of parents to choose education for their children and enshrines their freedom to homeschool.
The bill seeks to reverse attempts by former Alberta premier Rachel Notley and her education minister David Eggen to close religious schools for opposing so-called progressive values in what writer Jonathon Van Maren called a "two-pronged approach: Transform the curriculum in public schools and attack the religious schools."
Also elected in April 2019, Alberta's executive, Premier Jason Kenney, supports Bill 15.
"This legislation enshrines the belief of Albertans in freedom, diversity, pluralism and choice as well as parental responsibility," he said. "Because we believe that parents know better than politicians or bureaucrats about what's in the best interests of their kids."
Some language that would be added to the Education Act's preamble include "parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that may be provided to their children" and "the Government of Alberta recognizes public schools, separate schools, Francophone schools, private schools, charter schools, early childhood services programs and home education programs as being valued and integral in providing choice in education to students and parents."
The bill would allow a new charter school to be established by applying directly to the minister instead of requiring the school division to offer an alternative program first.
Some opposed this in defense of Alberta's public school system.
"Parents in Alberta already have significant choice, and the vast majority choose public education," said Jason Schilling, the president of the Alberta Teachers' Association. "In Alberta, public education includes schools in public, separate and Francophone school divisions; 93 percent of Alberta's students attend those schools. We believe that parents and teachers want to see those students supported most."
Edmonton Public board chair Trisha Estabrooks largely echoed Schilling's words.
"At Edmonton Public we have concerns about that because we know that charter schools don't actually have to take every student that applies and although they receive the full funding that a public school would receive," she said, "they aren't publicly accessible for all students the way public schools are."
"That sort of setup is a threat to public education and the valuable dollars that are required in public education," she added.
Before the bill was introduced 50,000 Albertans shared their views on education choice through an online survey that ended in December 2019.
Survey Highlights show that some respondents "included comments about the importance of parents as decision-makers for their children's education, factors that limit parents' ability to access choice (such as regulations, school board policies, or finances), and the belief that parents should be free to choose, but should have to pay for non-public options."
In a public address on Thursday, Premier Kenney said "school choice and the freedom of parents to direct their kids' education is not a policy preference; it is a fundamental human right."
If passed, Bill 15 will take effect on September 1, 2020.