Alberta's learning minister says the government is trying to work with Mennonite parents in southern Alberta to persuade them to send their children to school.

The parents of as many as 500 Mennonite children are keeping them out of class, because they feel public education is an assault on their religion.

Learning Minister Lyle Oberg says the province will work with the parents, not penalize them.

"Are we going to fine them? Are we going to bring down the heavy hand of the law? No, we're not," says Oberg. "We are going to make every attempt possible to get these kids and to bring them into school."

Many of the Mennonites concerned are descended from families who fled Manitoba in the 1920s. They left after that province imposed a law forcing their children to go to public school.

The families settled in Mexico, but now they're returning to Canada because they're running out of farm land.