Canadian province moves to strengthen parents’ right to homeschool
EDMONTON, Alberta, June 4, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – The Premier of one of Canada’s largest provinces announced a bill last week that strengthens homeschooling and charter school options for parents as well as reaffirms that parents, “not politicians,” are best to choose how to educate their kids.
Bill 15 re-words the preamble sections of the Alberta Education Act to include wording from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Section 26.3) that says “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”
Bill 15 also amends the language in the Education Act to allow a group seeking to establish a new charter school or homeschooling options to bypass the local school board and apply directly to the Alberta minister of education.
At a May 28 morning press conference, Kenney said this change in wording makes it the first law in Canada that explicitly recognizes this universal human right.
“Unfortunately, there continue to be some in Alberta, special interest groups, and political parties who want to undermine this fundamental human right. This legislation won't’ let them do so in the future,” Kenney said at the press conference.
“We believe that parents know better than politicians or bureaucrats about what’s in the best interest of their kids.”
Bill 15 was introduced in the Alberta Provincial Legislature on the afternoon on May 28 by Alberta education minister Adriana LaGrange. She said that if passed, Bill 15 would amend the Alberta Education Act to expand education choice for parents and solidify their right to choose where to send their kids to school. It also keeps both the status and funding for independent schools.
“This proposed legislation will affirm that parents, not politicians, have the right to choose the kind of education they feel will be best for their children,” LaGrange said in the legislature on May 28.
“This bill shows our government’s commitment to offering education options that allow parents to select the path they feel will best help their children.”
LifeSiteNews contacted LaGrange’s office for comment, but as of publication time, there has been no response.
The new legislation will expand and allow more options for parents who choose to homeschool their children, which was welcomed by the Alberta Home Education Association.
“Parental choice being enshrined within the Education Act as promised, and home education being equally acknowledged as an option for families deciding which education model they feel best suits each individual child, is a welcome step forward,” said Shawna Sundal, government liaison for the Alberta Home Education Association in the May 28 press release.
Bill 15 amends the preamble section “a” of the Education Act to say: “WHEREAS parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that may be provided to their children.”
Preamble “b” is amended to say: “WHEREAS 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.”
Bill 15 came about as part of an election promise from Kenney’s UCP Party to both strengthen choice in education as well as reaffirm parents as the primary educators of their children.
In 2019, the Alberta Ministry of Education conducted a survey of more than 50,000 Albertans that gathered their views on education choice.
The survey found that 62 percent of respondents were “satisfied with the amount of educational choice in Alberta” and 59 percent were “satisfied with the amount of information available about school choice.”
Alberta’s largest union for teachers, the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA), fought back against Bill 15, saying that opening more homeschooling options was “concerning.”
“Unsupervised home education should be a concern to all Albertans. A child’s right to a quality education must not be sacrificed in the name of parental choice,” said the association’s president, Jason Schilling, in a May 28 statement.
“Parents in Alberta already have significant choice, and the vast majority choose public education.”
In his May 28 press conference, Kenney said choice in education means competition, which leads to “better outcomes.”
“A top-down command and control monopoly public education that some would like would undermine freedom, choice, pluralism, and diversity and would result in less competition and worse outcomes,” Kenney said.
“We won’t let that happen.”
Shortly after Bill 15 was announced, Gil McGowan, the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, and an NDP candidate in the 2015 Alberta provincial election, said on Twitter that the new legislation would help “nutbar” religious schools go unchecked.
In a May 28 twitter message, McGowan said, “UCP paves the way for nutbar religious charter schools & home-schooling that doesn’t follow the curriculum. They’re trying to create an army of brainwashed right-wing warriors. And they accused the NDP of being too political with education! #ableg #abpoli.”
McGowan’s tweet was met with a strong backlash from LaGrange.
“It is shocking that Gil McGowan, head of NDP affiliated AFL, would call tens of thousands of Alberta parents ‘nutbars. Our government stands with parents. Does the NDP? #abed #ableg,” LaGrange tweeted on May 28.
Yesterday, LaGrange called on McGowan as well as the NDP to apologize for his remarks both in the legislature and via Twitter.
“It has been 6 days since NDP-affiliate Gil McGowan attacked faith-based and home education. The NDP have had 6 days to condemn his hateful remarks but they have failed to do so. Unlike the NDP, we stand with parents of faith-based and home educated children. #abed #ableg,” LaGrange said.
Alberta was governed by the pro-abortion NDP government under former premier Rachel Notley from 2015 to 2019. Then education minister, David Eggen, demanded that faith-based schools purge religious content from their policies.
In 2017, Eggen passed Bill 24, or “An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances,” which banned schools from telling parents if their child had joined a “gay-straight alliance” without the child’s consent, regardless of the age of the child.
This bill strengthened Bill 10, which was passed in 2015 under the former PC government, forced schools, including religious ones, to set up pro-homosexual “gay-straight alliance” clubs if requested by students.
In 2018, a group made up of more than two dozen religious schools in Alberta fought Bill 24 for their right to not allow “gay-straight alliance” (GSA) clubs in their school, after an Alberta judge blocked them from doing so.
Bill 24 required both public and private schools to create GSAs if requested by a student and forbade schools from informing parents when their children join a GSA unless the child consents to his or her parents knowing.
Kenney’s UCP government came to power in 2019 after defeating Notley with a majority government. Shortly after, Bill 24 was repealed. But Bill 10 remains and has yet to be repealed.