February 28th, 2024

CAPE School to benefit from $72M charter commitment

By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 18, 2022.

kking@medicinehatnews.com

The government of Alberta provided further information on its $72-million investment in public charter schools and collegiate programs Tuesday, as first announced in the 2022 budget. Medicine Hat’s CAPE School is one of 16 charter schools in Alberta set to benefit from the investment; something CAPE superintendent Teresa DiNinno says is long overdue.

Between 2022 and 2025, the province will provide $25 million in operating funding and $47 million in capital investments for 16 public charter schools and several collegiate programs.

“Public charter schools play an important role in Alberta’s education system by offering unique programming to students,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, said in a release. “This investment builds on our commitment to strengthening Alberta’s long and successful tradition of providing choice in education.”

DiNinno agrees with LaGrange and believes government funding has historically favoured jurisdictions other than charter schools.

“It’s about time,” DiNinno told the News. “For the last 25 years, charter schools have been operating with less funding than other public jurisdictions, (so) these announcements are amazingly great. We feel very good about what’s happening right now.”

Not everyone was as happy as DiNinno however; Albert Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling expressed concern with the investment in a Tuesday press release.

“The government is dedicating $72 million in new funding to just 16 schools,” Schilling’s statement read. “This is an inequitable, unjustified, ideological investment which epitomizes how privatization comes at the expense of public education.

“Since 2013, real per-pupil funding for public education in Alberta has declined by 15 per cent. Government funding to expand charter schools is simply an effort at privatization at the expense of our public education system, which is the first choice for 93 per cent of Alberta students. Public funds should go to public education.”

DiNinno refuted Schilling’s statement, saying charter schools are just another form of public school – one which offers specialized programs.

“The implication of (Schilling’s statement) is that charter schools are a way of privatizing education (but) charter schools are public schools, open to all students in Alberta … there is nothing private about it,” DiNinno said. “Our parents do not pay tuition fees. They pay fees, just like everyone else in Alberta pays fees to school jurisdictions … The curriculum is the same. It’s taught by certified teachers. It has a board of directors, just like all other jurisdictions. It has a superintendent and a treasurer, just like all the others. It complies with all requirements, just like everybody else does … what’s the private in that?”

DiNinno also disagreed with Schilling and the ATA’s belief “that charter schools should be incorporated as alternative programs within publicly funded and administered school boards,” stating the programs may not be able to operate in a large-scale system.

“Transplanting a program like ours into a public jurisdiction may not translate in the same way because of the structure of the organization,” she said. “The larger the organization’s structure is, (the) more time consuming.”

DiNinno believes the current education system – incorporating public and charter schools and allowing parents to choose – works well.

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