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Provincial Budget interpretations affect home educators

April 8, 2015

To all AHEA members and Alberta home educators:

A provincial election has been called for May 5th.
What are the issues facing home educators in this election?
AHEA has prepared the following statements to make things clearer.
Please consider this information as you decide how to cast your vote on May 5th.

1 - The Budget:"Province tells new home schoolers: no funding, no support, no supervision"

The recent Alberta budget effectively froze the funding for all school boards at 2014/15 levels.
While AHEA advocates for parental authority and freedom and not for more money, this funding freeze will have a significant impact in reducing parental freedom.
For most school boards, the funding freeze means that there is less money in the collective pot so each area will experience a pinch.

But for home educators, who are funded per student, it means that students who were home educating in 2014/15 will be funded and new students get nothing.
New students will get no funding for resources, will have to pay out of pocket for all educational expenses, and will also have to pay for the two facilitator visits per year required by the Home Education Regulation.

So that means boards and private schools have two choices:
a) they take on new students but those students are unfunded and therefore get no support or supervision
b) they don't take on new students, shifting the financial burden to some other board or school and limiting parental choice.

Since the students, by provincial law, have to be receiving an education and notifying with a board or private school, it means that the province is saying "you can home educate but you are on your own. You will not receive the supports other home educated students do and there is no accountability either".

Home education is currently the most economical form of education in Alberta and saves Alberta taxpayers 80 million dollars a year (10,000 home educated students times a savings of over $8000 per student compared to students attending Alberta schools).
But new students will be entirely cut off from home education experts and support, unfunded and paying out of their own pocket to meet the requirements of the law.

2 - More from the budget:"Alberta creates two-tiered education system"

The recent Alberta budget announced that the province was freezing the funding for all school boards at 2014/15 levels.

That freeze applies to some but not all.
In fact, for home education funding, public boards get an INCREASE while private boards have their budgets CUT.

So parents who notify with Independent Contracted Home Education Specialists (ICHES) affiliated with private schools (examples include Education Unlimited, THEE, WISDOM and others) get less compensation for educational resources than those affiliated with public or Catholic boards.
AHEA advocates for parental authority and freedom and not for more funding money, but this funding freeze reduces the freedom of parents to choose the school or school board that best suits their children's needs.

Alberta, which has long trumpeted the fact that it supports parental choice in education and provides a variety of educational choice, is actually reducing that choice by making it financially tenuous for these Specialists (ICHES) to operate.
It should be noted that most of the home educated students in Alberta are supervised by these Specialists and that home educating families have overwhelmingly asked for ICHES to be specifically protected and supported in Alberta legislation.

Home education is currently the most economical form of education in Alberta and saves Alberta taxpayers 80 million dollars a year (10,000 home educated students times a savings of over $8000 per student compared to students attending Alberta schools).
But Alberta Education has apparently decided that those who save taxpayers the most must be squeezed out of business.

3 - Dual credits:"Home Educated students banned from post-secondary courses"

In a recent announcement, Alberta proclaimed how educationally progressive it was in creating a dual credit strategy where students could earn post-secondary credits while still in high school.

But home educated students are now banned by Alberta Education from doing the same.

If home educated students take post-secondary courses - even paying for the courses themselves and taking the courses in addition to their regular high school course load - Alberta Education declares them to be a post-secondary student and denies ALL of their home education funding.
In fact, Alberta Education claws back all funding from the home educated student and from the school or board that supervises them.

This is also being done retroactively putting several Independent Contracted Home Education Specialists (ICHES) in financial jeopardy.
If ICHES are put out of business, parents will have little choice in who will supervise the home education of their children.

4 - Bill 10:"Bill 10 is only the beginning"

Although it appears, at this time, that Bill 10 will have little direct impact on home educators, it is possible that the private schools that administer those home education programs may be targeted by lobby groups working in Alberta to reduce religious and personal freedom.

The Liberal MLA who is pushing this aggressive agenda, Laurie Blakeman, has said that Bill 10 'is only the beginning'.
We don't know what that means so it is clear that home educators should be vigilant and politically aware of possible attacks on freedom and parental authority.
These attacks may come indirectly, as we already see from the financial attacks on ICHES.

5 - Bill 19 and the Home Education Regulation:"Will Parental Authority be respected?"

Bill 19 passed with little fanfare as it contained amendments to the Education Act.
These amendments contained mostly 'housekeeping' details and were not supposed to change anything of substance.

What does change with Bill 19 is that the Education Minister - and his department - have stronger enforcement tools in cases where the Minister thinks a board or private school isn't 'fulfilling its obligations',
AHEA's concern is that phrasing will be used to inflict increasing harassment on ICHES Specialists.

We also await the finalized versions of the regulations that will fall under the new Education Act.
That Act is due to finally become law this fall so the regulations need to be in place very soon to give school boards time to align policies.

If the Home Education Regulation is as it was during the final consultation period that ended in January, it will be a regulation that we can live with as virtually nothing changed from what we currently have.
AHEA and its members lobbied for some minor wording changes to protect and support ICHES and we continue to advocate for those changes in the final version.

6 - Provincial election: "Who should home educators trust?"

AHEA has worked to develop relationships with all political parties.
Although AHEA does not support any particular party, AHEA asks that all of its members be politically aware and active and vote for the candidate and party that each member thinks will best represent the member's interests.
The concerns expressed above can be raised with any candidate running for office.

These concerns will ultimately need to be addressed with the bureaucrats within Alberta Education and so AHEA also asks all members to stay in touch - via the AHEA website, Home Matters, local support groups, and ICHES - since home educators will need to bring political pressure to bear after the election.

Thank you, please pray for home educators and for our soon-to-be-elected representatives, and please stay tuned.

Paul van den Bosch
Alberta Home Education Association

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