The government war on choice in education shows up in funding:
An unequal funding model shuts down educational choice
Choice in education means every child deserves full 100% funding for their parent’s choice in education delivery program, whether public, Catholic, independent, charter, or home education. The current NDP government seems determined to shut down parental choice by squeezing out the economic viability of home education. Currently, independent school children get 60-70% of the base instructional grant funding compared to a public school child who receives 100%, and a home educated child only gets 12.5%. This funding ratio has not changed in 25 years. Home education doesn’t get infrastructure, transportation, special needs, high school CEU, early childhood education or Kindergarten funding.
Often, home education is a last resort for parents. Children with special needs, mental health challenges, and bullying problems that are ignored in the public school system are left with very few choices. Choice should not be only for parents who can afford to subsidize it. Every child needs 100% instructional and resource grant funding, including home education. Because, as every parent knows, every child is unique, and needs a personalized education delivery.
Children are penalized for their parent’s choices in education. Parents of public schooled children that attend a physical building, have to pay for their child’s laptops, musical instrument rentals, ski lessons, sports equipment, graphing calculators, and textbooks. Meanwhile, parents of online registered school children receive those items for free, and they do not have to return them at the end of the year. Parents of children in alternative programs or independent schools have to pay for busing, field trips, and offsite gym outings, but children in public schools are provided transportation and gyms for free. Parents of home educated children have to buy everything (with no economies of scale) on 1/8th of the budget of a public school child and the reimbursement is highly restricted. Many can’t afford it and do without even though they pay taxes.
Even online schools are not equitable among themselves. As shown in photo A, some online schools gift students with up to $1,600 of non-returnable items. The three public school boards of Christ The Redeemer School Division (Centre for Learning@Home), Golden Hills School Division No. 75 (Northstar), and East Central Alberta Catholic Schools Regional Division No.16 (School of Hope), have online/correspondence schools that have been giving “resources” to registered families for years, which include items such as cameras, CD/DVD players, USB drives, graphing calculators, cases of paper, art supplies, laptops, Ipads, and e-readers. Gifts are ordered from Staples, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Best Buy, Amazon, and other vendors. The schools purchase the items on the school or teacher’s credit card and deliver the items directly to the home address of the parent. Families who register with these public school boards may also choose from a range of services for (non-certified-teacher provided) private music lessons, tutoring, and recreation, as well as computer repair. All paid for by taxpayers. These are children in regular school programs and not home education. These are gifts that stay in the home and are not returned to the school at the end of the year. This is inequitable. In addition, this disparity even contrasts with other online schools, that only provide instruction, such as CBeLearn, and whom don’t even give out headphones for their online courses anymore.
It’s a myth that home education families do not have instructional or resource costs. Parents are not certificated teachers and shouldn’t be paid to teach, however, in meeting their child’s learning needs, many outsource the instructional component to tutors. At an average rate of $50 per hour for tutoring, $835 doesn’t go very far in providing an education to a child whose learning challenges are not addressed in a traditional classroom model. The cost of grade 11 core course textbooks that follow The Alberta Program of Studies outcomes is about $1044.47 when purchased from Amazon.
The government should get out of the “we know best” mindset and give parents a full voucher for their education choice, letting them decide where the funding goes, rather than distributing funding unequally among different school, program and education types. If the government wants to control education with its regulations, then it must be prepared to provide adequate funding that is applied equally across all delivery methods. The NDP government has been made aware of these inequalities multiple times but requests to fix the concerns fall on deaf ears.
Absolutely no one can say that one type of education delivery is better for a child than another, except for parents, who know their child best. Not the teacher’s union, or the education ministry, or government bean counters, or well-funded public lobby groups. Parents are trusted to know what is best for their children from ages 0-5. That shouldn’t stop when their child has 6 candles on their birthday cake. Home education students received the same funding as public school students in the late 1980’s. Let’s not punish parents who teach for love instead of a paycheque. True choice in education is an equally funded choice. Every child deserves it.