School Choice In Alberta: A Primer

 

 

One of the things that’s unique about the Alberta Parents’ Union is that we advocate for improved education quality and choice in every single education type in Alberta:

  • Public Schools
  • Catholic Schools
  • Francophone Schools
  • Alternative Program Schools
  • Charter Schools
  • Independent Schools
  • Funded Home Education
  • Unfunded Home Education

That's why we want to take some time to explain all these types of education, and - at the same time - hopefully, dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about how certain schools are allowed to operate in Alberta.

So here it is - your one-stop-shop explainer of Alberta’s school choice landscape!

I hope you find this useful, and if you know of any other parents who are interested in school choice, or have questions about the types of education available in Alberta, please send them this article.

If you appreciate our work and want to help the Alberta Parents' Union defend and promote education choice, please click here to become a member.

 


 

School Choice In Alberta: A Primer

 


Public Schools

Public schools are based on district lines, and students are residentially assigned to a public school district.

Within the district, students are also assigned to a particular school, but Alberta has open enrollment, meaning that a public school must accept enrollments from outside the district if they have the capacity to do so.

Public schools are governed by elected school boards, for which the voter turnout is, unfortunately, typically low.

Alberta Education funds public schools with just over $10,000 per student per year in grants.

Alberta Education also provides significant funding for capital, maintenance, special needs, and transportation costs.

Public schools are not permitted to charge tuition, though they are allowed to charge fees - and most do.


Catholic Schools

Catholic schools are guaranteed in the Alberta Act, our province's founding document, in order to protect minority rights.

Like public schools, Catholic schools are based on district lines, and Catholic students are residentially assigned to a Catholic school district.

Within the district, students are also assigned to a particular school, but Alberta has open enrollment, meaning that a Catholic school must accept enrollments from outside the district if they have the capacity to do so.

Catholic schools are governed by elected school boards, for which the voter turnout is, unfortunately, typically low.

Alberta Education funds Catholic schools with just over $10,000 per student per year in grants.

Alberta Education also provides significant funding for capital, maintenance, special needs, and transportation costs.

Catholic schools are not permitted to charge tuition, though they are allowed to charge fees - and most do.


Francophone Schools

Francophone schools are guaranteed in the Alberta Act, our province's founding document, in order to protect minority rights.

Francophone schools have a mandate specifically to preserve the French language and culture, and are intended to provide an education to children who speak French at home.

This is distinct from French-immersion schools, which are generally independent schools, and are designed (at least in part) to help children who speak English at home learn French.

In practice, many francophone schools also function as French-immersion schools, but their existence is based on their unique mandate.

A francophone school must accept all students wishing to enroll if they have the capacity to do so.

Alberta Education funds francophone schools with just under $14,000 per student per year in grants.

Alberta Education also provides significant funding for capital, maintenance, special needs, and transportation costs.

Francophone schools are not permitted to charge tuition, though they are allowed to charge fees - and most do.


Alternative Program Schools

Alternative program schools are governed by a non-profit society and a school division, though the non-profit society can choose which school division they will be affiliated with.

Also, the affiliated school division does not necessarily have to be the one responsible for the geographic area in which the school is located, and the non-profit society has the ability to change which school division they are affiliated with.

Like every school in Alberta, alternative program schools must follow the Alberta curriculum and schedule of learning outcomes.

To qualify as an alternative program, however, the school must have a distinct focus, such as innovative pedagogy, non-English instruction, religious instruction, character formation, vocational training, or a sporting or arts focus, any of which must permeate the program.

Importantly, the distinct focus must be funded separately through fees, rather than with the taxpayer funding provided to the school.

Alternative program schools are not required to accept all students wishing to enroll.

Alberta Education funds alternative program schools with just over $10,000 per student per year in grants.

Alberta Education also provides funding for special needs costs but does not provide any funding for capital or transportation costs.

Alternative program schools are not permitted to charge tuition, though they are allowed to charge fees - and fees tend to be higher as they must cover capital costs and the costs of the distinctive programming.


Charter Schools

Charter schools are governed by a non-profit society, with a board made up of parents, that was formed for the purpose of creating a charter school.

This non-profit society must apply to Alberta Education to receive a "charter" to operate as a charter school, and this charter must be renewed by Alberta Education every five years.

Like every school in Alberta, charter schools must follow the Alberta curriculum and schedule of learning outcomes.

To qualify as a charter, the school must have a distinct focus, such as innovative pedagogy, non-English instruction, character formation, vocational training, or a sporting or arts focus, any of which must permeate the program.

The school may not, however, have religious instruction as a distinct focus, and may not teach religion.

Also, with the exception of vocational training, the school must not duplicate an alternative program that is already provided by the public school division that is responsible for the geographic area the charter school is located in.

The teachers and administrators at charter schools must not be full members of the Alberta Teachers' Association, but may be associate members.

A charter school must accept all students wishing to enroll if they have the capacity to do so.

Any denied student may request an investigation into the criteria under which they were denied enrollment.

Alberta Education funds charter schools with just over $9,000 per student per year in grants.

Alberta Education also provides funding for special needs costs but does not provide any funding for capital or transportation costs.

Charter schools are not permitted to charge tuition, though they are allowed to charge fees - and fees tend to be higher as they must cover capital costs and the costs of the distinctive programming.


Independent Schools

Independent schools are governed by a non-profit society and must be members of the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta.

Like every school in Alberta, independent schools must follow the Alberta curriculum and schedule of learning outcomes.

The teachers and administrators at independent schools may choose whether to be members of the Alberta Teachers' Association, and the teachers may be certified by either the Alberta Teachers' Association or the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta.

Independent schools are not required to accept all students wishing to enroll.

Also, the same financial reporting requirements now apply to independent schools as any other school, and are arguably more burdensome, as independent schools have more sources of funding.

Alberta Education funds independent schools with just under $6,000 per student per year in grants

Alberta Education also provides funding for special needs costs but does not provide any funding for capital or transportation costs, nor is there any taxpayer provision for their teachers’ pensions.

Independent schools are permitted to charge tuition and fees.


Funded Home Education

Funded Home Education is provided by a parent or guardian under the supervision of a school authority - either an associate board or an associate independent school.

The student's education must follow the Alberta program of studies or the Alberta schedule of learning outcomes.

Alberta Education provides $850 per student per year to the supervising school authority and $850 per student per year to the parent or guardian if receipts are provided for education supplies and lesson materials.


Unfunded Home Education

Unfunded Home Education is provided by a parent or guardian without the supervision of a school authority.

Parents must notify Alberta Education of their intent to commence an "unsupervised" home education program.

The student's education must follow the Alberta program of studies or the Alberta schedule of learning outcomes.

No funding is provided by Alberta Education.


 

As you can see, Alberta offers many different types of school choice!

We hope this breakdown was useful, and if you have any further questions about any of these options, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us.

If you appreciate our work and want to help the Alberta Parents' Union defend and promote education choice, please click here to become a member:

 

 

The Alberta Parents’ Union is made up of families from every education type listed above - and even some families trying to innovate new types!

So, regardless of the type of education your kids get, join us to raise your voice and help empower parents to advocate for the best possible education for every Alberta student.


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