September 28, 2016
Over the past several years, AHEA has been working with home education school authorities to address auditing challenges which had the potential to severely limit the school authority choices home educators would have. Alberta Education's response has been the development of guidelines for resource reimbursement, guidelines which have not yet been made public. In addition, Minister Eggen has decided that no retroactive financial claw backs to any home education supervising authorities will be occurring.
AHEA was invited to meet with individuals from the Ministry and department of Education where the proposed guidelines for financial reimbursement to home educators was revealed. AHEA was told that these financial reimbursement guidelines are to be used for the 2016/2017 school year and should be presented to school authorities within a few weeks. AHEA voiced its concern about the implementation date being immediate, when the school year has already begun. AHEA also pointed out that it is the parent, not Alberta Education who define what the home education of their children should look like.
It is very important to be aware that the freedom and ability to home educate, AHEA's primary focus, has not be affected in any way with this document. It is through the efforts of AHEA and its members, that administrators who specialize in home education have been protected from potentially detrimental financial claw backs. The new guidelines do place limits on which resources are eligible for financial reimbursement, some of which were questioned by AHEA and which will likely be argued as being reasonable home education program expenses by both parents and home education administrators. However, in terms of a parent's freedom and ability to home educate, there is no negative implications as a result of these guidelines.
While staff within the Ministry and Department of education supposed the guidelines would be released to supervising administrations within the next couple of weeks, Minister Eggen has yet to determine an exact date.
Alberta Education indicated that the guidelines reflect the requirement for Educational Program Plans, as required in the Home Education Regulation, and resource reimbursement to be connected, a concept they found was sometimes lacking during their recent audits.
Financial resource reimbursement eligibility requirements according to the guidelines include:
-The necessity to have a program plan (as required in the home education notification form)
-All reimbursements are to be related to the program plan, not to the 'school'
-There must be link between the program plan and the educational item purchased
-Receipts are required in order for items to be considered for reimbursement
-Reimbursements are for Grades 1-12 materials only (there will be no penalties for taking post secondary studies, but there will also not be any financial reimbursement for these studies)
In summary, Minister Eggen listened to the concerns of home educators regarding financial clawbacks and has developed guidelines for moving forward, not retroactive. Educational freedoms are not placed in jeopardy by these guidelines, but the eligibility of certain educational resources for reimbursement, and thus a narrow defining of what constitutes home education, is to be implemented for the current 2016-2017 school year.
A more in-depth look at the guidelines will be available in the Fall, 2016 Home Matters magazine.