Red Deer public school board advocates elimination of Catholic school system
Red Deer's public school board has voted to advocate for a single publicly funded school system in Alberta.
"Having two publicly funded education systems is something that rose out of history and is no longer relevant to the way we do things," Red Deer public school board chairwoman Bev Manning said Thursday.
The central Alberta school board voted 4-3 in favour of the motion at a Wednesday board meeting.
With scarce resources available for public education, it would be more efficient and effective to have one inclusive school system in Alberta, rather than public and Catholic schools operating side by side, Manning said.
Guy Pelletier, chairman of the Red Deer Catholic school board, said it's "a bit difficult not to take a motion like this personally."
Albertans are well-served by having a choice between public and Catholic schools, he said, and he sees no reason to change the system.
"As a board, we're disappointed that our colleagues in Red Deer public would support a motion like that," he said.
The public board trustees opposed to the motion wanted to see the issue tackled at the provincial level, Manning said.
Manning, who was opposed to the motion, worried it would be detrimental to her board's relationship with Catholic colleagues in Red Deer.
The Alberta Act of 1905, which is part of the Canadian Constitution, gives Catholics the right to form a publicly funded separate school board. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario are the only provinces to fully fund a Catholic school system.
Alberta also has a publicly funded francophone school system, which has both public and Catholic schools.
Splitting public money between the school systems has come under increasing scrutiny as of late.
Past education minister David King launched an online campaign in March for one public school system in Alberta.
An Edmonton public school trustee ruffled feathers when he asked whether public schools could offer Catholic programs, and said public school boards are denied their fair share of school construction dollars.
The president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association has said amalgamating public and Catholic school boards may not save much money and would take away choices from families.
Edmonton's public school board will discuss taking a formal position on the issue, chairwoman Michelle Draper said Tuesday.
"I think that’s a provincial decision that the minister needs to make," Draper said. "Is it, the way that we’re structured right now, the most effective and efficient to meeting student outcomes, and using the scarce dollars and scarce infrastructure that we have?"
When asked about Red Deer public's motion, Education Minister David Eggen said he's encouraging school boards to work together by sharing transportation, purchasing, and buildings to stretch public dollars further.
"People can retain their faith and their core, as protected by the Constitution, but, you know, you've got to be creative, too," Eggen said.