The head of an Alberta advocacy group for parents is defending the public funding of private schools as a way to save taxpayers money.

"It is a false narrative to claim that independent education removes dollars from the public system," said Donna Trimble, executive director of Parents for Choice in Education, pointing to a study commissioned by her group. "It actually saves dollars from the public system."

Trimble spoke out after an Edmonton-area Christian school board's refusal to implement LGBTQ government guidelines prompted calls from critics to pull funding and review the allocation of provincial dollars  to  Alberta private schools.

Private schools receive 70 per cent of the operational funding of public schools

But Trimble said the argument is false that it costs the province more to fund private schools.

She said Alberta private schools receive approximately $5,150-per-student annually, less than half of the $10,900 a year provided to public school students.

It would cost the province more for every one of the existing 29,400 private school students if they returned to the public school system, she said.

Trimble said the private school system saves Alberta on average $750 million over five years.

Trimble also defended the right of Alberta school boards not to implement LGBTQ guidelines laid out by the province.

On Thursday, Education Minister David Eggen vowed to 'aggressively pursue' schools that don't follow the LGBTQ guidelines recommending schools allow students to use the washroom and play on sports teams consistent with their gender identity.

'Not legally binding'

But Trimble said the guidelines are "not legally binding", as stated in a letter from Eggen which she provided to CBC News.

"These guidelines were created as a resource to be used by educators as they work to accommodate their students and are not legally binding," Eggen wrote to parent and blogger Theresa Ng on March 15, 2016.

Eggen was responding to Ng's open letter on Facebook in which she agreed something must be done to protect LGBTQ students and their families, but criticized the guidelines for failing to reflect the diverse needs and perspectives of all Albertans.

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca    

@andreahuncar

Corrections

  • Donna Trimble originally told CBC News private schools save the Alberta government $75 million a year. She has now changed that number to $750 million, based on a report commissioned by her group.
    Sep 05, 2016 11:13 AM MT