Alberta Home Education Association
The parents of AHEA have always valued being able to home educate with as little government intervention as possible. This view represented the most freedom possible to home education families while we fall under the purview of the Ministry of Education. This fall, that dream is becoming a reality and is an exciting addition to the choices that we already have had. AHEA is proud to have successfully advocated for the Notification Only, No Funding (NONF) option for the home educators in Alberta.
"We have been championing this sort of option for a number of years and are thankful to see it included in the updated Home Education Regulation that is to take effect on September 1, 2020. I hope that many parents choose this option and I pray that all parents and children who go this route are blessed in the years to come in this freedom-leaning choice."
Ted Tederoff - President, AHEAThe Choice We Have Had – Supervised
NONF will differ from the supervised format you will have experienced under an associate board, which was the only choice until now if you wanted to home educate. Associate boards required you to do four things on behalf of the government:
- Notify through them, at which time your children are entered into the PASI system. (This allows them to receive the grant of $1700, which you split 50/50.)
- Submit a copy of your education plan, which informs the validity of your spending and evaluations.
- Provide proof of purchase by way of submitting receipts that tie into your education plan and the funding guidelines.
- Give documentation about your child's work/assessments to associate board teachers, also known as your facilitators.
We have all grown used to the oversight and the relationship. For families who feel confident in their ability to educate without the government representative support in funding and manpower, you will now be able to choose to proceed to educate without supervision.The New Option – Unsupervised
NONF is going to be as simple as it sounds – one step. You will fill out a form to notify the government of your intention to home educate in the new unsupervised format. You will provide typical information that is always required – name, date of birth, address and proof of identity. Since you will be taking responsibility for the education of your child that is not supervised by anyone else you will declare many of the same things that you have followed under an associate board. You will be agreeing that you're providing an education that falls under the Home Education Regulations (the Alberta Program of Studies OR the Schedule of Learning Outcomes), evaluating progress, understand you will not be receiving funding and are still under the oversight of Alberta Education if there are concerns.
Don't forget that although this option is only coming online on September 1st, you have until September 30th to have your notification submitted. Be aware that the associate boards are very busy and may reach capacity, so it will be a courtesy to them if you let them know you have decided to move to the Notification Only, No Funding option as early as possible. The Department of Education is currently working to streamline the notification process. An online option that moves your notification to either to the department or to an associate board is hoping to be up by September first, where you can upload your necessary documents along with the form. In the meantime, a .pdf will be available shortly that allows you to print, sign, sending everything to the necessary party.
Checks and Balances Are to be Expected
All educational models have checks and balances built into them. Things like truancy are easily understood and widely known in the public system, but are not relevant to home educators. In setting up this new option, the department needed to build in checks and balances. So far there has not been anything that causes us to be concerned. Any reports that there is a home educator having a problem will first be considered for validity, as there is not going to be an automatic triggering of any kind of inquiry. The Director who already oversees all the education models will include our new option in his portfolio. The criteria for an investigation would be if your home education program did not fall in line with the Home Education Regulations or if you were not providing your children with the opportunity to learn.
The department is working on a process to handle concerns that come in, and AHEA has been gratified to be consulted by the Minister on such a sensitive issue. We reached out to the HSLDA in the USA and Canada about our proposal and have been pleased that in other places the notification only programs have worked well and instances of this type of a concern process being needed are rare as parents meet the criteria. We are pleased that in Alberta we fall under the Education Department instead of Social Services, unlike Ontario, which means we don't have a social worker to deal with, and can instead remaining focused on educational issues. We have suggested in our proposal that in the cases where an assessment may be required that someone who has experience with home education be brought in so that a family will be best understood. As things are decided and become policy, and further information becomes available, we will let you know. AHEA is trusting that home educators will have the best interests of their child at heart, and that everyone is well educated in the requirements laid out. We should also all remember that the exception does not make the rule, and no education model has perfect results, so home education will not be held to an impossible standard that has not been achieved elsewhere.How It Happened
AHEA has advocated strongly for NONF over the last year and a half. We have been blessed to have a Minister that believes in parents and in their ability to make choices in the best interests of their children. Minister LaGrange presented this position in the Choice in Education Act that received royal assent on June 26, 2020, and this option was made possible by the changes that it produced in the current Education Act This has been followed by the changes to the Home Education Regulations. Although the amendments have been made available, and have been poured over by many, a final copy of the amended Regulations will not be available until September 1st from the Queen's Printer.
"It is to the credit of Minister Adriana LaGrange that this is now an option for those dedicated and responsible parents who desire the least intrusion into their children's education process.
"The current AHEA executive is to be congratulated for their continued efforts to see this to completion. It is a notable accomplishment, with practical aspects of education returning to the purview of parents, where it rightfully belongs."
Raymond Strom – HSLDA Canada
AHEA supporters will appreciate that we don't seek additional funding for home educators because we believe that money creates undue influence. We are grateful for the choice that Alberta home educators now have in this area. Parents who don't need to consider if what they are spending on curriculum will be approved experience financial freedom in their decision making. Parents who have funding, but are not looking to receive what the public school student costs taxpayers, exhibit wisdom and reasonability, with an eye to the connected cost of what would be asked of them. Not needing to worry about making changes to their education plan and submitting it for review and approval will be a freeing experience for some, while all home educators are able to pivot and utilize every opportunity and to flex with their child and their learning. We are proud to represent parents who define true diversity in customized education for their child.
AHEA, together with you, continues to work for and safeguard liberty in our country, homes and minds.
"Where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty."
2 Corinthians 3:17b
There have been changes to the funding manual this year that have clarified payments from associate boards to parents. Please exercise caution and carefully inquire with whatever associate board you are notifying with if you hear differently. There should not be more than the $850 issued to you as a home educator when you do 100% of the work, and in a shared responsibility situation it will be even less.
Ambiguity about the clarity of the amount will not be allowed. The full and maximum amount of $850 is the parent's to use within the Standards of Reimbursements and your program plan. There is the NEW ability for parents to subsidize their board and sign over some or all of your funds from your $850 portion of the grant for educational supports only. Your signature on a Parent Declaration Form will be required for these transactions to be authorized.
NEW THIS YEAR - Look for the new allowed 100% allowance on lessons and tangible assets! Also 75% receipts = full refund of your grant (no more worrying about yard or secondhand sale purchases receipts being acceptable if they are only 25% of your purchases per child.)
AHEA is working for YOU!!
D1.6 of the 20/21 Funding Manual*
6. An associate board or associate accredited funded private school must offer to the parents of a home education student no less than 50 per cent of the home education funding for the purchase of instructional materials. Parents have up to two years to access the parental portion of home education funding.
13. 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.
*AHEA continues to work with the Education Minister, her Office and her Dept. Further revisions are forthcoming as the language continues to be tweaked to ensure everyone understands the guidelines.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.