The Public School Board Association of Alberta is fighting back against claims that Catholic education is under attack in the province. After recent criticism by Grande Prairie Catholic Board Trustee Michael Ouellette and a board member in Medicine Hat they are working to ensure that their messaging is understood.
The PSBAA envision one school system for all of Alberta. President Arlene Hyrynk says it centres on what they believe is best for children.
“We believe our vision for one system offers opportunity for equity and equality. We also think it demonstrates fiscal prudence with Albertan’s hard earned tax dollars. It ought to be a conversation that we as locally elected school bards should be having.”
Hyrynk adds, “our vision respects the constitutional rights that are afforded to Catholics in Alberta and we see that as a part of that vision.”
Currently, the Government of Alberta fully funds four education systems: public, separate, Francophone and charter. According to Alberta Education, the 2017 budget included $8.2 billion in funding for schools around the province. Hyrynk argues that when you have different systems all competing for the same money, it is the children who lose out.
“Because dollars are distributed on a per pupil basis if you don’t have enough students that means limiting programs and opportunities within that school site.”
Hyrnyk uses Edmonton as an example of somewhere that could benefit from this system. While many schools in the central area are dealing with low enrollment, the newer outlying communities are fighting for infrastructure funding for their own buildings. Hyrynk says one community school in those areas would work. She says not only would it work in Edmonton, but rural Alberta as well.
“When you have a community that only has 1,000 children and you have multiple school systems, that does not lend itself to the ability to create that plethora of opportunity that each and every child in each and every system needs.”
“Through the one vision, ” she continues, “we would maximize opportunities for kids. Now you would have the student body [size] that the funding would allow for all sorts of programming and options available for our children versus limiting their choice.”
Hyrynk plans to connect with Ouellette todiscuss his concerns related to the treatment of the Catholic school system. Hyrnyk and Ouellette both serve as Observers to the Alberta School Boards Association.