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Eggen threatens to pull school funding from GSA holdouts
Alberta’s education minister said almost all schools in the province have implemented policy to comply with legislation designed to protect students, with a few holdouts, nearly one year after legislation was passed.
In a news conference Wednesday, Minister David Eggen said every one of the province’s public, separate, francophone and charter school authorities had enacted policies to comply with legislation.
“This means over 98 per cent of kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Alberta are currently protected under compliant policies,” Eggen said.
While most school authorities are following the legislation, Eggen said one-quarterof holdouts remain. A total of 28 of the province’s 94 accredited and funded private school authorities have not met requirements set out in the legislation.
“It’s not just kids in school, but the progress we’ve made in our society that we should be concerned about,” Eggen said.
Eggen said he has issued ministerial orders establishing standard policies for these school authorities, and he said he doesn’t plan to stop there if they continue to defy the legislation. He said authorities who do not comply “will lose their taxpayer-funded, per-student grant for the 2019-20 school year.”
An Act to Support Gay-Straight Alliances, which was previously called Bill 24, was passed in December 2017. The legislation strengthened the School Act to support students who wish to join or create gay-straight or queer-straight alliances.
Under the legislation, schools were required to publicly post policies in a prominent location on their websites by June 30, 2018.
As the province closes in on one year since the Act was passed, Eggen looked forward to the 2019 provincial election, and warned against the possibility a conservative government would reverse the legislation.
“With the noise that we’ve heard from the [UCP], the history of their leader and his statements against equality for LGBTQ people in this province,” Eggen said
At a speaking engagement Wednesday, UCP leader Jason Kenney said if his party were to form government after an election, students would have the right to participate with such groups.
“Our principle would be kids have a right to set up gay-straight alliance or other peer support group,” Kenney said.
“We also support the freedom of religion of independent schools and [Eggen has] objected to some pretty garden variety statements of faith that some of these schools have in their governance documents,” Kenney said.
Meanwhile, the opposition leader questioned the minister’s approach to organizations not following the rules.
“We don’t think it’s very useful to be throwing around threats of defunding.”
With files from Timm Bruch