Alberta Home Education Association
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- A Healthy Competitive Environment for Parents to Choose From – AHEA'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!
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear;2 Timothy 1:7
but of power, and of love, and of
a sound mind."
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?"
It has been interesting to see more people being news-watchers lately, since people-watching has fallen out of fashion. We were already used to slogans being used by companies to try to make us believe something or other about their product and convince us that we cannot live without it. Critical thought being applied to sloganeering was in vogue in many circles, as it should have been in all. However, recent events have taken this type of communication to a whole new level.
Daily repetition of anything makes it hard to process. Reservations that you may initially have had are submerged below the constant restatement of information by the press or others ad nauseum, until it seems that you must be the only one questioning the message. And that is only looking at the bald face of it. What of the intent, purpose and result of the message which may not be obvious? Do you even have time to think it through between hearings?
There are two things I think we need to consider as we realize there is a challenge with the current day's messaging. Then, I'd like to address the costs that we are seeing and how they relate to home education. We need to be awake, aware, and well-informed citizens.Propaganda Has Never Gone Out of Style
We are too often ignorant of the propaganda which constantly surrounds us and its varying levels of access and success. Currently we have reached an interesting point in the history of the free world, as we see the government using the 'free press' as a proxy to carry a government's message. We have seen the government issue bailout packages to press that are carrying the 'right message' and withhold funding from those who carry the counter-cultural message. Not that these groups would even accept funding from the government because it makes them vulnerable to influence and they wish to be free, and seen as free, from any obligation to toe a party line.
Where the free press used to be the watchdog of government and act in the assumed interest of the people, it has slowly transformed into a producer of opinion-driven news articles which do not hide their biases. When I was a child in school, we were taught to eliminate the bias from our factual writing, and save our opinions for the proper assignment. This was the mandate of journalism, but even journalists have seen this as a professional debate. As journalist Jen Gerson observed in an article published in Nov. 2018 titled 'Canada's media bailout will weaken trust in journalism. We should reject it.' "How this system is expected to strengthen press freedom, I have no idea. From what I can see, it will only lead to a national professional standard or credential that will inevitably centralize control over the media in a country where the media is already profoundly consolidated." Sadly, the ones getting the money, and more likely to survive, are those who have compromised.
So how can you spot propaganda? There was a book written in 1965 by Jacques Ellul called Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes that was partially covered in a 2015 article called 8 Frightening Characteristics of Propaganda on Intellectual Takeout's website. I'd suggest that you take the time to read it to understand how each of the eight characteristics mentioned are used. However, here is the short list – see what is all too familiar.
- Prevents dialogue – no time for details, excludes contradiction.
- Focuses on the mass – an isolated unit presents too much resistance to external action.
- Is total – utilize all technical means of media at their disposal.
- Takes over education – no contrast to propaganda. Utilize to condition to what comes later.
- Takes over literature and history – rewritten (past and present) according to need.
- Must be subtle at first – seeks to create a favorable preliminary attitude before direct prompting.
- Must be nonstop – eliminate outside points of reference, filling a citizen's whole, and all, days.
- Aims at irrational action – the aim of modern propaganda is to provoke action not modify ideas.
Please note that this list is not new, nor is the objective observation on the subject matter. The use, and the effectiveness, of propaganda is very, very real, and left unchecked, it is a world-changer. Spotting it, and calling it what it is, gives us the ability to think outside a rapidly shrinking box that prohibits free thought. This is critical to preserving what we hold as personally important, as all things become subject to government objectives instead of personal objectives.Freedoms Are at Stake
There have been numerous articles that highlight the rapid changes coming provincially, federally and internationally. But we must realize that this didn't just start. The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms has a section on their home page titled "Freedom Under Attack – Canadians Tell Their Stories" where you can watch videos going back to 2013. There is also a section now dedicated to Covid-19 and Constitutional Concerns, which means that within the last two months there has been an extreme uptick in Constitutional concerns that warrant legal attention. And the team at the JCCF is not alone, as there other firms just as busy, and alarms being sounded from numerous sectors. As I write on May 3rd I count four hundred and fifty five (455) separate emergency measures that have been enacted and are being tracked on this site, or you could follow this Repository of Canadian Covid-19 Emergency Orders. One of the best articles I've read lately that lays out the need to stand for freedoms is by a law professor named Bruce Pardy titled Even During a Pandemic, the Needs of the Many Do Not Outweigh the Rights of the Few. He states that "Rights protect individuals from the whims of public opinion."
Home educators can relate to this, as our decision to educate our children at home has never been that of the majority. The right to home educate relies on the other rights we have under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 2 of the Charter outlines the following fundamental freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Given that every freedom challenged puts the others at risk, it is beholden on us to support them all, for our own sake. In this spirit I say that no matter our personal opinion on different topics, we need to see that freedom truly is being threatened and this issue deserves our most sincere support if we want to see our home education rights survive in the scrum freedoms are now involved in.A Cautionary Tale
"It has been pointed out that very different events took place in France and England in the latter decades of the eighteenth century. The French Revolution was a revolution of power. The French citizens drove out the aristocratic rascals and put their own leaders in. But the Age of Reason gave birth to the Reign of Terror and finally led to the tyranny of the Napoleonic era. At about the same time, when England could have fallen into a parallel situation, the Wesleyan and Whitefield revivals took place. As the Word of God had its sway in the hearts of thousands and thousands of people, instead of violence and bloodshed, a moral transformation of the land eventually expressed itself in the laws and culture. But those changes did not happen in the world's way."[i]
A friend shared an observation on that quote and how it relates to our current situation. "These are two concepts of liberty. France was the god of reason. England was liberty of conscience as bestowed by the God of the Bible. France's path results in bloodshed and we are treading that path again."
I would advocate for the moral transformation that is possible when we have the personal liberty to teach our children our values. I would advocate for us being able to speak in the public square with all of the conviction that having a biblical basis for our conviction allows us, and that we speak not just for ourselves but for our fellow man. I implore us to not be passively apathetic or fatalistic, as action is surely the point of being the hands and feet. I pray that during this time, when we are living history instead of studying it, that we will set an example for our children in doing what we ought. What we can do, as we are each called, is to be the voice of faithful confidence in our circles, knowing that God holds our lives and days in His hands, and thus we need not be afraid of anything."Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90: 12)
[i] James Montgomery Boice, The Life of Moses: God's First Deliverer of Israel, p. 47.