Edmonton

Home-schooling parents can still recover costs amid Alberta's fight with Trinity

The Alberta government says it will continue to cover the costs of textbooks and other incidentals for thousands of home-schooled students caught in the middle of a funding fight.

Parents will soon be able to send textbook receipts to government for reimbursement

Education Minister David Eggen pulled the accreditation and funding for Trinity Christian School Association two weeks ago after an audit found widespread spending irregularities over the last three years. The government says it will continue to cover the costs of textbooks and other incidentals for parents. (CBC)

The Alberta government says it will continue to cover the costs of textbooks and other incidentals for thousands of home-schooled students caught in the middle of a funding fight.

A spokesman for Education Minister David Eggen says parents who are having their children home-schooled through the Trinity Christian School Association can soon send their receipts to the government for reimbursement.

Parents of home-schooled children can get slightly more than $800 reimbursed per year for items such as textbooks.

"We're setting up a process where in the interim at least they can go directly through Alberta Education for that funding,"
spokesman Jeremy Nolais said in an interview Monday.

Reimbursement plan coming

Nolais said the department will have the reimbursement plan up and running this week or next.

The province is currently embroiled in a court fight with Trinity, which had been receiving more than $5 million a year from the province to oversee 3,500 home-schooled students along with 13 more being taught in a school in Cold Lake.

That's about a third of all home-schooled children in the province.

Eggen pulled the accreditation and funding for Trinity two weeks ago after an audit found widespread spending irregularities over the last three years.

Trinity subcontracts its home-schooling to agency known as the Wisdom Home Schooling Society.

Both groups took the province to Court of Queen's Bench in Grande Prairie last Friday, asking for a stay of the decision until a judge could review the government's decision in detail.

Both Trinity and Wisdom, in court filings, deny using any money improperly and say Eggen's decision to close them without notice or a chance to tell their side of the story violates the principles of natural justice.

The judge agreed to let Trinity and Wisdom keep operating pending a full hearing on Jan. 5, but also ruled that the province did not have to keep funding them.

Each home-schooled student in Alberta receives $1,670 per year to be distributed by the agency that oversees their education, which in this case would be Trinity.

Trinity will not be paid

Half of that $1,670 is to go to parents for textbooks and other education-related expenses, while the rest goes for administration and oversight.

Nolais confirmed the other half of that $1,670, which normally goes to Trinity, will not be paid.

Ken Noster, an associate principal at Trinity and the administrator of Wisdom, could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the province is urging parents with Trinity to get their students signed up with other boards. Nolais said so far about 135 students have done so.

Eggen closed Trinity based on the audit, which said the senior ranks of both Trinity and Wisdom were essentially made up of two families.

It said those families, whose names were not made public, received $2.8 million in compensation over the last three years.

It also said that almost all the money given to Trinity was redirected to Wisdom, where multiple financial irregularities
included lavish per diems, double dipping on mileage and travel expenses, and employment contracts to other family members.

It said taxpayer money was used for alcohol, gifts, gift cards, pizza, parties, babysitting costs and funeral expenses.

The report stated that over the last three years, Wisdom improperly held back $988,000 that was to go to parents for
home-schooling.

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