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~ FUNDING UPDATE ~

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                                           AHEA – Working for You!

AHEA is very pleased to announce that the updated version of the Alberta Education Funding Manual for the 2020/21 school year released on June 18th, 2020 contains many of the great improvements for home educators which we have been busy advocating for. Considering where the discussion started, which was that home education would be included in the weighted moving average policies like school based model funding, we have come a long way. Home education funding, therefore, has managed to successfully maintain many of the necessary considerations for our unique model, and has changes in several areas.

The following are basically quoted from the guide itself, with comments by AHEA's Government Liaison italicized, if given. Some of the information is repeated for your information and clarity in general.

Retained/Maintained
  • September 30th enrollment deadline for home education.
  • Must reside in Alberta on the September count date of the current school year.
  • 50% of the funding grant is available directly to parents/guardians as reimbursement for instructional materials and services that support the instructional program at home.
  • Education plans must be consistent with the learning outcomes… in the Alberta Program of Study or stated in the schedule attached to the Home Education Regulations. Further information will be provided in the coming weeks after the Home Education Regulations are updated, pending the passing of Bill 15 and the clarification on a new option for Notification Only, No Funding (NONF). Currently you can wait or register under any option available, and feel free to move before the Sept. 30th cutoff date.
  • The associate board (that you notify with) must provide the resident board information through PASI and Student records. This is not new, but all home educators should know that their student information and funding is processed this way, without exception.
  • An associate board or associate accredited funded private school must offer to the parents of a home educated student no less than 50% of the home education funding for the purchase of instructional materials.

Improved
  • Parents who submit receipts for at least 75% of eligible expenses will receive the entire $850.00. This will allow purchases between people, garage sales, etc. to focus more on the purchase than the paperwork. Just note that it will not be allowed if you don't provide the first 75% of documented receipts.
  • The Standards for Home Education Reimbursement have been updated and are good for you to reference while planning for next year. You should note that items need to be necessary for and related to your student's program (this is important to qualify for the funding) and paid for and supported by invoices. You may reference them anytime, but important to note now are the following items which have been made 100% eligible. (Keep in mind the note about regarding 75% back up provided and 25% backup note required IF the 75% is documented.)
    • Lessons – including, but not limited to, music, swimming and language…
    • Tangible assets – e.g. cameras, telescopes, musical instruments, physical education equipment, sewing machines.
  • Parents have up to two years to access the parental portion of home education funding. Parents are guaranteed the option of rolling over their funding by the government, not their associate board. This should not be seen as an allowance but as a right you are entitled to everywhere you may choose to register without exception.
  • Parents will be allowed to transfer some or all of the parental portion of the home education funding (your $850) to the associate school authority for education supports should they choose to. If parents decide to transfer their funding, they will be required to sign a Parent Declaration Form to facilitate this transfer. This option allows you to allocate your funding to an associate board instead of having unused funds return to AB Education. Some may choose to easy the tax payer burden. Others may wish to support an associate board, which will be limited in their use of the funds to educational supports, not general or discretionary use. This is important for us all, as we desire clear accountability to parents and the government for funding usage, critical in the reputation of our home education model.
  • If parents decline or do not claim the parent portion of the Home Education funding, Alberta Education will recover the unclaimed/declined portion, the year following the previous two year period. You don't have to worry about this, as your associate board will handle the paperwork based on your choice and submissions. Do be aware, however, that the carry-forward allotment should always be considered 'used first' by your associate board, so that you have the maximum flexibility and use of your funds.

Problem Areas – Still Under Discussion
  • Home education / Shared Responsibility students are not eligible for severe disabilities funding. We continue to work on special needs funding as an item that should be dealt with apart from their educational model choice. Students should not be discriminated against because of their preference.

                                          OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST

New – Shared Responsibility Funding Clarified

This is a significant clarification by Alberta Education. Many people considering home education, and weighing the choice of parent directed versus teacher directed, have looked at funding differences as a deciding factor. The clarification by the government that NO additional funding be provided by ANY method, was necessary and closes a loophole that had been abused. Any additional funds that a shared responsibility program receives are to be used to pay for the teacher portion only. Parents are not eligible for extra perks – so getting them should make us stop and look harder, not away.

  • Students that are coded as shared responsibility students and meet the program requirement outlined in The Guide to Education will be funded at the shared responsibility rate. Shared responsibility programs receive additional funding to address instructional costs.
  • In order to qualify for shared responsibility funding, at least 20 percent of the program must be delivered by the school authority, up to a maximum of 80 percent, and be teacher-directed. Below this range, the student should be enrolled as a regular home education student. Above this range, the student should be enrolled as a regular/online student, with the school authority responsible for 100 percent of the program and the parents not eligible for any home education funding.
  • School authorities that provide shared responsibility program may use some or all of the parents' 50 per cent funding, only with parent's signed agreement, to pay for the cost of these courses and required instructional materials.
  • Reimbursements to parents of students in a Home Education or Shared Responsibility program, may not exceed $850.00 in value per year and are subject to the same reimbursement interpretations as the Standards for Home Education Reimbursement, whether they are reimbursements, ordered by purchase order or directly procured by school or district. Note the lack of exception for payments by another means. Going around direct funding for you as the parents is no longer a loophole to be exploited.

Online and Regular School Models

This is critical to understand, given the recent impact on choices to educate at home. Online school is not the same as home education. There should be no funds provided to the families when the teacher directed program is the model chosen. There should be no exceptions. 

  • School authorities are not permitted to provide funding, whether by reimbursement, purchase order or direct procurement, to students or families in cases where a student is enrolled in an online or regular school program.


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Overall, the clarification for home educators in all matters of funding is not only necessary to understand, but critical to ensure that proper stewardship is maintained by everyone. AHEA families would be wise to seek to ensure that there are not instances of exceptions to these guidelines, as that reflects badly on our community, deteriorating trust internally and externally. Help us help you!

AHEA is pleased with the efforts of Education Minister LaGrange and her office to listen well to the comments and the concerns presented. If you have suggestions or recommendations for changes you'd like to see advocated for, you should approach AHEA directly for us to be able to respond appropriately and through the proper channels. We have witnessed and see before us the results of good advocacy and listening by an Education department who wished to ensure parental choice in the system based on respect for all the models under its care. Home education is a valid and valuable choice that all Albertans can and should consider when making education choices for their children.  

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A Work In Progress

A Work In Progress


Bill 15 passed second reading in the Legislature on June 9, 2020. The Bill is now 'In Committee Of The Whole' which means that the whole Legislature will discuss possible amendments, which could be considered. AHEA is satisfied with the wording of the Bill's support of home education, which reinforces the primacy of a parent's right to choose the education of their child, the acknowledgement of home education as an equal choice and makes possible the additional option of notification only, no funding because of the phrase, 'supervision, if any' being clarified. Home educators should support this Bill and reaching out to your politicians at this time to encourage them would be wise. You can find your MLAs on AHEA's new page "How to Contact YOUR Politicians."

AHEA has been working with the Minister's Office and Alberta Education throughout this process. More work is required as we move to the Home Education Regulations being amended by Minister LaGrange to flesh out Bill 15's intentions. This is a work in progress, and while there is much anticipation in wanting to know how the Regulations will read, please be patient while we await the actual wording.

AHEA's continued interaction with the government has allowed us to reinforce that when we have advocated for a Notification Only option, we did mean 'only,' not 'plus!' AHEA has never suggested that a parent submit a notification plan directly to the government. The discussion around the parent's responsibility for the education plan of the child is being worked on as I write this. If the Minister wishes to provide a distinct, new option, it must be different from what we already have access to, and Ontario provides an example. We feel that our position is clearly understood, and efforts to continue communicating are mutual. Your continued prayers are appreciated while we work.

You will be informed as soon as there is more formal news. It is no surprise that there is opposition to this from other groups. While we do not feel the need to respond directly, we do encourage our members to exercise caution in what they may read as it may not fully present the information you seek in a positive or appropriate context. We also encourage all members to be unified in the expansion of home education options, regardless of it being a choice that you would consider in your own family situation. As a community, standing together and supporting each other in strengthening home education in law, regulation and perception is a work that we share. Being wise in our words, patient while awaiting facts and persevering in the pursuit of our goals will make each AHEA member an asset.

Keep your eyes open for further updates, expected shortly, with exciting information on more changes to our funding guidelines and the standards of reimbursements. 

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BREAKING NEWS! - Bill 15 Choice in Education Act!

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AHEA is very pleased to announce that the proposed Bill 15 Choice in Education Act, tabled today in the AB Legislature, will make significant steps in affirming parental choice. This work was the result of a platform mandate, as well as the processing of over 50,000 survey responses from Albertans. Home educators made significant efforts in responding and our voice, at 5.3% of the respondents, considering our volume, was noteworthy, showing that approx. 25% of home educators were active in this government survey of the community. This speaks to the active civil engagement that is so important to home educators.

Minister LaGrange has said, "If passed, the bill will amend the Education Act to affirm that parents, not politicians, have the right to choose the kind of education they feel is best for their children. It will strengthen Alberta's successful history of education choice, including public and separate schools, francophone schools, charter schools, independent (private) schools, home education and early childhood education."

Highlights of the changes significant to home education are as follows:

  • It adds a statement from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (section 26.3) to the preamble of the Education Act that states, "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children."
  • It adds a statement to the preamble of the Education Act:
    WHEREAS the Government of Alberta recognizes: public schools, separate schools, francophone schools, private schools, charter schools, early childhood services programs, the provision of alternative programs, and home education programs as being valued and integral in providing choice in education to students and parents.
  • It amends the Home Education Programs section of the Education Act (section 20) to allow for an unsupervised, notification-only, non-funded home education program.
    Annual notification of the intent to homeschool will be required as well as submission (not approval) of a home education plan/program that demonstrates sufficient opportunity to achieve, to an acceptable level, appropriate learning outcomes.

Premier Kenney noted that, "This will be the first law in Canada that explicitly recognizes and enshrines that Universal Human Right."

We are gratified to see the steps taken today will strengthen a parent's inherent ability to care for their child's best interests. It should also put to rest the validity of that interest being intertwined with their child's, and not at odds with it.

You may read the full Alberta News Release here.

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What's in the Works for Home Education

What's in the Works for Home Education
This will be an exciting year on the home education front I believe. Hard work in advocating for the interests of home educators, over the last year and more, is bearing fruit. We are excited to tell you about some changes that are being implemented or proposed, as well as some ongoing concerns that we continue to pursue on your behalf.

  Done!!

  1.  Notification Only – No Funding. The expansion of home education notification to include this option for parents is especially gratifying after all the years that home educators have asked AHEA to advocate for it. The opportunity to press in on this issue with the introduction of the Choice in Education Act was fully utilized. We made a case for the validity of the choice, trusting parents, and the fiscal savings.
    • How it will work – Parents will provide a Notification form directly to the Minister, understanding that in doing so they forfeit the claim to the $850 grant they would be entitled to if they would have notified with an associate board. They have initially said that parents will need to send in an Education Plan annually, for information only, with no further review or supports provided to them, but we continue to work on this portion. This will be effective for the 2020/21 school year. More details will follow, but you can read the Minister's official news release here.
  2. Reduction of Receipts Required For Refund of Parental Grant. Parents will be required to submit receipts that equal only 75% of their grant of $850 in order to receive all of it. This will allow parents to stop worrying about purchases at a garage sale or from a friend. You must submit $637.50 worth of receipts before the deadline in order to qualify for the entire grant.
  3. Receipts Can Be Dated Up To August 31st. Parents can claim purchases up to this cutoff date for the 2020/21 school year. This standardized date should help all parents have equal access to their funding and not be driven by individual associate board policies. This is the same for everyone no matter who you are with if you are under the home education regulations.
  4. Funds Left Unspent Will Be Clawed Back. Any funding that you as a parent do not spend will be returned for Alberta Education to use these savings in another way. There will be no ability to 'donate or leave funds' with the associate board you notified with. Parents will either receive all of their part of the $850 grant or a portion. Any unspent portion will be returned to AB Education at the end of the year, after the August 31st receipt deadline. This eliminates associate boards pooling the parent portion of unused funds for any other purpose.
  5. The Final Count Deadline. We are pleased that this date will remain the same for the home education community, although not for other educational models. This means that you can notify as a home educator until September 30th, as usual.

TO-DO LIST! 

  1. Multi-Year Claims – Currently home educators have generally experienced the ability to roll-over their funds to the following year if not fully utilized by advising their associate board, who they have notified with. At this time the changes to the funding manual by the department have reduced our spending time to a single year. We have highlighted this for the Minister's reconsideration, as we had asked for three years to allow for budgeting for larger items.
  2. Standards of Reimbursement – This is currently under discussion, as it has been an ongoing concern of AHEA members. We have highlighted this for the Minister's consideration after discussing it with the department and hope to see some movement on the guidelines that are unnecessarily concerned with percentages being broken down for the small amount of funding available to home education families.
  3. Funding for Special Needs Students Who Choose to Home Educate – We find it grievous that the special needs student who is home educated is deprived of all taxpayer funding dollars that are available if they were in a different educational model. We have been bringing this up in multiple meetings with the department and the Minister, advocating for a funding solution to be found. Parents, who are home educating because they feel it is the best environment for their child, and are taxpayers too, should not be lacking all real forms of support and services, as is currently the case. Efforts will continue in this vein until we are heard and some form of initial progress for this vulnerable segment of our community has been reached. We remain hopeful that the intent is not to take away from these children and their families but that there has not been sufficient effort in finding a way to make it happen. This is doable, and we will not give up in reaching an understanding with Alberta Education on these student's behalf.
  4. A Healthy Competitive Environment for Parents to Choose FromAHEA's job is to advocate for our membership and advance the cause of home education in Alberta. While AHEA clearly cannot be representing the interests of associate boards, since our parents are required to notify with them, it is in our interests to help ensure that a market driven equality exists. Parents should have the ability to see plainly their available funding dollars and the financial policy for whatever model they choose publicly stated and be able to focus more on the services, relationship and a good fit being offered by any associate board they are considering. Financial information shouldn't be a mystery.

The shift to a weighted moving average for the other educational models (which we negotiated out of this year) have meant that associate boards are experiencing a rather big shift in how they can manage their administrative and operating costs. AHEA has no role to play in how their finances play out, except to have made this apparent to AB Education - without an even playing field, as home education relates to the shared responsibility (blended) model, access to home education could be reduced if the associate boards cannot survive or thrive. How you are coded matters! Shared responsibility can be a confusing model for parents to consider and navigate as the funding seems to shift situationally and the teaching responsibility between parents and teachers can lack transparency. This grey area has been manipulated in the past and we are supporting efforts to bring clarity to the situation for the sake of parents, who need to have information plainly stated to make a good and fair decision. Boards that incentivize parents to leave home education, because of the promise of additional dollars for their child, will themselves plan on collecting on a substantially greater amount. Therefore parents should make sure that the parental responsibility and funding dollars correctly applying to them is abundantly clear. The health of the home education model, and its supports, lies with parents who understand the difference.

Ongoing advocacy is the year-round work of AHEA that parents may not always be aware of. The results of this continuous work can result in a peaceful experience for the home educator who has no idea of the bullets dodged, or can be the means by which a battle-cry is sounded to preserve this unique and amazing opportunity for our children and families. Either way, your vested interest in staying informed, and supporting this work, makes your life choice possible!

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Power in a Pandemic

2020.05 Power in a Pandemic

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;
but of power, and of love, and of
a sound mind."

2 Timothy 1:7

Circumstances beyond our control tend to make us feel powerless, and it is fairly safe to say that most of the world has experienced this feeling to some degree over the last few months. Reactions have varied from docile to outrage. But as time wears on, it is apparent that the current situation also tests our underpinnings – what are we made of and in whom we trust. There is also the stark realization that we must question whether or not we are indeed powerless.

Having plans and purpose is a good thing. Knowing that our plans are subject to change is, perhaps, a necessary lesson for most of us. "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." - Prov. 19:21. Now some may read this verse and think that there is no use in having a plan. To the contrary, it can actually be a wonderful reassurance that the purposes of God are being born out through our efforts, and that we cannot mess them up so badly that the end result is not His will. We know this is true because Prov. 16:9 says, "The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps."

Being on the move helps us see how to accomplish these plans. It is easy to feel overwhelmed when we are instructed to stay in one place and not take action. There is a time for everything, Ecclesiastes reminds us. This passage is wonderfully weighted with action verbs, and contains the thought that even at rest you will be accomplishing something. G.K. Chesterton had this observation, "A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it." In response, you may ask, "What can I really do?"

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