School choice greatest in Alberta, Fraser Institute says
Think-tank's new report applauds province for funding charter schools, home schooling
Alberta provides more choice in schools than any other province, according to a report released by the Fraser Institute on Thursday.
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The report notes that Alberta is the only province to fully fund charter schools, it offers more support for parents who choose to homeschool and both the public and Catholic systems offer French and English options.
Such variety can be very beneficial, said Jason Clemens, executive vice-president of the Fraser Institute and co-author of the report Measuring Choice and Competition in Canadian Education.
"When parents are empowered to choose their schools for their kids and we force schools to compete with one another, we get better school performance,” he said.
When parents are empowered to choose their schools for their kids and we force schools to compete with one another, we get better school performance- Jason Clemens, Fraser Institute executive vice-president
The Fraser Institute bills itself as an independent think-tank that proposes market driven public policy with less government intervention.
According to the report, it can be a mistake to equate high public school enrolment with a lack of parental choice and competition. For example, Alberta and Ontario offer a lot of parental choice within the public school system.
“Both provinces provide four fully-funded public education systems: English public, French public, English Catholic, and French Catholic,” the institute said in a release.
“The presence of charter schools in Alberta provides an additional source of choice, which provides parents with additional options outside of traditional linguistic and religious alternatives offered by public school boards.”
While all 10 provinces allow home schooling, Alberta provides $1,641 per home school student and has the highest percentage of home school enrolment at 1.6 per cent, according to the report.
The report also applauds all four western provinces and Quebec for partially funding the operating costs of independent schools, compared with Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, which do not.
“Parents in Alberta enjoy choice in both the public and independent school systems, Ontario relies largely on the public system, while Quebec and B.C. rely more on independent schools. And unfortunately for parents in the Atlantic provinces, they're afforded the least educational choice and competition in Canada," Clemens said.
Choice has consequences
But with choice comes consequences, said Larry Leach, chair of the Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Calgary Schools (ARTICS).
"When you choose to go outside of your community, you have to understand that you're making a choice to not support your community school. And if it’s not full and it’s not bustling, they will make changes,” he said.
Leach said when he sent his son to a school outside of his neighbourhood, he still helped the community school with fundraisers as a show of support.