By Medicine Hat News Opinon on May 29, 2017.
We recently saw an editorial position in the Edmonton Journal defending Catholic schools. The editorial stance presents the case for Catholic education, funded by Albertan taxpayers. This perspective is presented as a choice of parents and as a system with religious values and a faith-based experience. We would like to pose some simple questions to you:
— How does having multiple publicly funded school systems appropriately manage the dollars from Alberta’s taxpayers?
— Shouldn’t our tax dollars provide equal opportunity?
— Don’t we want our children to study together, create together, perform together, debate together and work together?
— By supporting one faith-based system, what message are we sending to other religions when Canada prides itself on being a cultural mosaic?
The Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta (PSBAA) has a very clear goal: to create a system that serves the student. We do not want to see an end to Catholic programming in schools, we just know that separating our students into different buildings based on what makes them different isn’t the answer to creating a more inclusive and loving future.
It is the position of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association (ACSTA) that land can be shared, but not classrooms. “The ACSTA and its member boards oppose the joint use of school buildings with public school boards in any manner that has the effect of undermining or interrupting the full permeation of Catholic values and beliefs.” We believe that we can and should share instructional spaces and model that which we want for our children: inclusive and collaborative relationships.
There is academic and experiential evidence that a richer personalization of learning is the right course for students. The public school system believes in accepting students for who they are and working to achieve in the child’s best interest. Public schools welcome all children with open arms. We wonder if Albertans would create the two systems if the education system was designed today. We do not believe we would favour one religion over others. While some may suggest there is little expectation that every child’s needs in education will ever be fully funded, we still have an obligation to be effective with every dollar collected from taxpayers.
Competing school systems are costly and unfriendly to the idea that we can learn together. One funded and inclusive system can accommodate the constitutional rights afforded to minority faith ratepayers and align with the values of Albertans today and tomorrow.
Many are aware of the recent decision in the Theodore School case in Saskatchewan. Justice Donald Layh has provided a common-sense description of original and continuing understanding of Catholic schools. He says,”If separating students was the essential reason for separate schools’ existence, I fail to see why the minority would simultaneously seek a right to admit children of the majority faith from whom they took deliberate action to separate. One act belies the other. Like it or not, the defendants must accept the foundation of their case: separate schools were meant to separate students. From this fact, the defendants cannot escape and from it they must advance their argument.”
We will say this again, the goal of the PSBAA is not to end faith-based programming, we just don’t believe that we should be separating students to provide them with these learning opportunities.
We believe that creating one single, publicly funded school system is the best way to support Alberta’s students. We also believe that this is the most economically responsible approach to allocating taxpayer dollars and we know that this is the best approach to help create a more inclusive and loving society.
Arlene Hrynyk is president of the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta.