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Alberta to spend $72 million to expand charter schools


As part of Alberta’s 2022 budget, the province is spending nearly $75 million to expand Alberta public charter and collegiate schools over the next three years.

"Funding through Budget 2022 will be used to support leases and facility improvements so existing public charter schools can grow and new public charter schools have the spaces they need to deliver the educational services to the students that want them," said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange Tuesday.

The province is also using a portion of that funding to explore public charter school hubs, where separate charter schools would share facilities like gyms, playing fields, and food services.

The Alberta government says some of that money may also be used to support polytechnic collegiate schools, which would be associated with post-secondary institutions such as Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT).

"This really corresponds to our vision of providing more experiantian and practical learning," said Premier Jason Kenney.

Tuesday’s announcement raised concern, however, for public education advocates with some worrying the investment could undercut support for public schools throughout the province.

"Publicly funded doesn't mean publicly accessible," said Edmonton Public School Board Chair Trisha Estabrooks. "And unfortunately what we’re seeing with today’s announcement, I think will lead to a slow erosion of public education in this province."

Earlier this month, the province announced its plans to spend over $250 million to upgrade and build 15 Alberta schools including two catholic schools in Edmonton. No funding was allocated to build new Edmonton Public Schools.

Estabrooks says Tuesday’s announcement is another disappointment, following that previous decision.

She says it’s especially upsetting to hear additional funds will go toward establishing new charter high schools, at a time when Edmonton Public has been vocal to the province about a current "high school space crunch."

"It stings a little bit," said Estabrooks. "Knowing that a week and half ago (the province) shut Edmonton Public out of building a new school or modernizing a new school."


While public education advocates are calling the move inequitable, Kenney says the investment provides opportunity for Alberta students and parents to alternative learning in the case they are dissatisfied with public education practices.

"This is one of the reasons pluralism in education makes sense," said Kenney. "Some parents may not like things that are going on (at) their local public school, and they have options if that’s the case."

The Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) believes that option, however, should not be funded by public tax dollars since a number of charter schools use admission criteria or performance assessments to restrict access.

"This is an inequitable, unjustified, ideological investment that epitomizes how privatization comes at the expense of public education," wrote ATA president Jason Schilling in a statement to CTV News.

With 16 charter schools across the province, there’s currently a wait list of around 15,000 students hoping to attend specialty programs focused on music and academics.

But Estabrooks says many of those choices already exist within the public system.

"Charter schools do offer that choice, I do hear that, but public schools offer the same choice," said Estabrooks. "So let’s truly fund the system that is truly accessible to everybody."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson. Top Stories

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