AHEA wrote an e-mail and posed the following question to the Education Minister and each party's Education Critic.
"AHEA would welcome a statement from the Ministry of Education and Education Critics from all political parties as to your position on parent’s roles in the education of their children, rationale for the votes you made. Your responses will be posted on our website. If you would like to provide a response, please address it to myself, and I will be sure to have it posted on our website."
The following response has been received.
* Note New Information
Please continue scroll down to see the response received on April 9, 2012 from Rachel Notley
Rob Anderson: Wildrose Education critic
A lot of incredible things happened at the Legislature on Wednesday - I’ve never seen anything like it.
First off – great news - due to your campaign’s pressure, section 16 will not pass before the election! This is good news but really not very important as the PCs say they plan to bring it back unchanged right after the election. The PCs voted against both of our amendments to add paramountcy of parents to the preamble and to eliminate s.16. This is very disappointing. The PCs have also decided they are committed to bringing this bill to the Legislature right after the election to pass – I guess that is still bad news.
Tuesday a source let us in on what the PCs were planning. Knowing they would bring it back right after the election, the PCs were hoping to allow the Wildrose to filibuster and kill the bill until after the election (when they would then pass it anyway). Of course, as you know Bill 2 is by and large a good Bill. It expands school choice especially regarding charter schools, takes on bullying in school, gives more autonomy to local school boards and does a whole lot of other things that will be very beneficial to our education system and that are in the Wildrose education platform. It’s just the preamble and s.16 of the 200 page bill that need changing. The PCs, said the source, were planning that a major part of their campaign attack against Wildrose was to let us filibuster s.16, see the bill die at our hands, and then attack us (with ads, etc) saying that the Wildrose didn’t support public education, or local autonomy, or charter schools, etc, etc – and that we were holding public school kids hostage for the fears of a few homeschoolers, etc, etc.
We all know this is garbage, but that line of attack may have proven effective if we were forced to vote against the Bill – 99% of which is very good – because so many public school parents just wanted Bill 2 passed and aren’t paying attention to the s.16/parental rights piece as they don’t feel it affects them as much.
When we found this out, we coordinated a solution. We brought forward our 2 amendments on the preamble and s.16 and asked for a vote on the amendments and the PCs voted them both down as expected.
We then made it clear we supported the rest of Bill 2 (minus s.16 and the preamble) and said in the Legislature and in a press release, that because Bill 2 was going to be passed (given the PCs have a 68-4 seat advantage over us) by the PCs before the election, because we supported 99% of Bill 2, the Wildrose Caucus would support the Bill for now and bring amendments to the preamble and s.16 immediately after the next election should we form the government.
Then up came the NDP caucus with their amendments – and this is where it really gets loopy. Instead of voting the NDP amendments down quickly and voting on the Bill, the PCs made a mistake, ran out the clock on the NDP amendments, and shut down the Legislature for the day including the night sitting and ended up killing Bill 2 themselves.
If you are confused I don’t blame you, but here is the summary of the results:
1. 1. Section 16 will not be passed before the election (again this is the least important thing because the PCs are committed to passing it right after the election)
2.The PCs are on record voting and speaking against the s.16 and preamble amendments brought forward by Wildrose.
3.The PCs have alienated virtually every parent concerned with parental rights and the potential of human rights commissions forcing Catholic schools, faith based schools and homeschooling parents to teach issues contrary to their personal beliefs.
4.The PCs have alienated public school parents as they will now rightfully be blamed for holding up the 99% of the bill that was worth passing because of some sort of procedural political game they were playing.
5.The PCs will not be able to use homeschoolers as the boogeyman to pit homeschoolers/Catholic schools/faith based schools v. public schools during the election
6.Most important in my view, Wildrose is on record as committing to pass the s.16 and preamble amendments immediately after the election – and the old education act will still be in force until then because they didn’t pass Bill 2
Response from NDP Education Critic
Patty Marler, Government Liaison
Alberta Home Education Association
Dear Patty Marler:
Thank you for your letter and your interest in our party’s position on the proposed Education Act.
Alberta’s NDP believes in a strong and fair human rights framework to protect all Albertans. We believe the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act provide legislative structure for this. However, the mention of these two pieces of human rights legislation in section 16 of the proposed Education Act (Bill 2) does not change the fact that neither of these documents have jurisdiction over the ability of a school board to intervene in the rights of a parent to raise and educate their child. We believe this reference to honouring and respecting the Charter and the Human Rights Act was simply a way of stating the expectation that educational programs of study in Alberta should respect all the grounds for protection from discrimination that are contained in these two pieces of legislation. These are values we support, and we believe they should be reflected in the province’s public education system.
We therefore chose not to support any of the three proposed amendments to Bill 2 that dealt with section 16 or parental rights. We do not believe the proposed amendment and subamendment to the preamble of the bill would have had any effect on the application of the legislation, and we feel that parental rights and freedom of religion and expression are already clearly and sufficiently protected through existing legislation. The proposed amendment to section 16 did not specify several grounds for protection against discrimination that are included in the province’s human rights legislation, such as gender, sexual orientation, and ability. We believe it is important for the foundational legislation of our province’s education system to reflect all the values of equality and human rights contained within our province’s human rights laws.
I know many families in my constituency who homeschool, and I appreciate the dedication and care they take in raising their children. As I previously stated in the debate on Bill 2 on March 14, 2012:
We respect the rights of parents to teach their kids about their religious beliefs and values in the home, and that’s something that’s very important to all families in Alberta. I also remain convinced that in our public sector, where all of us have to come together regardless of our religious background, there are certain simple concepts which must apply to all of us, and I would not ever want to see that jeopardized.
I hope these will be helpful comments with regards to our perspective on this issue. The Alberta NDP is fully committed to a strong public school system and the contribution it makes to strong and healthy communities and individuals.