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学校收费不再封顶?免费基本教育直到21岁:UCP要用教育法取代学校法

原始发布日期: 2019-04-11    发布者:山民

           

School fee limits in question, free school until age 21: What the Education Act would mean for Alberta schools.

Three straightforward-sounding lines in the United Conservative Party's education platform have the potential to unleash a host of changes on Alberta schools, should the party form government after next week's election.

(United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney intends to replace the School Act with the Education Act. )

Three straightforward-sounding lines in the United Conservative Party’s education platform have the potential to unleash a host of changes on Alberta schools, should the party form government after next week’s election.

On March 25, UCP Leader Jason Kenney promised his party would replace the current School Act of 1988 with the Education Act — a piece of former Progressive Conservative legislation passed in 2012, but never proclaimed. The former government was still writing regulations to accompany the new act when it lost the 2015 election.

If elected premier, Kenney pledged the Education Act would take effect on Sept. 1. Critics, including past NDP Education Minister David Eggen, said the legislation switch is a “cynical” and “backdoor way” to roll back extra protections that government introduced for LGBTQ students and staff.

In addition to less clarity for teachers on the privacy rights of students attending gay-straight alliance club meetings, and laxer requirements for private schools to accommodate LGBTQ students, switching the 188-page School Act for the 176-page Education Act could have further consequences.

Now the Edmonton-Calder NDP candidate, Eggen said Wednesday the Education Act, as drafted, was “fraught with problems,” which is why the NDP opted to amend the School Act instead.

Edmonton public school board chairwoman Michelle Draper said Wednesday the proposal is a “distraction” from the top issues school boards face, including decaying old school buildings, high schools crammed to the rafters, rising student enrolment and the growing needs of students with mental health problems.

Jeff Johnson, who was PC education minister in 2012 when the Education Act was passed, said Tuesday he was happy to see the UCP propose to bring it back.

The act and regulations were the products of five years of consultations, and would give school boards more powers and charter schools more permanency, he said.

Here’s some of the changes a switch could bring:

Limits on school fees might disappear

In the wake of some school fees rising dramatically, the NDP government cut school fees by 25 per cent and allotted $50 million more to school boards yearly to make up the difference. In addition to prohibiting fees for basic supplies, Bill 1 also made an estimated 145,000 students who lived more than 2.4 kilometres from their designated school eligible for free busing.

The NDP also brought in regulations in June 2017 preventing schools from imposing new fees or hiking them substantially without the minister’s approval.

Eggen said some families with three kids in school were saving up to $1,000 a years on fees. These fee limits could die along with the School Act.

Before they merged into the UCP, the Wildrose and Progressive Conservative parties supported Bill 1.

“The UCP is the only party concerned with the cost of living for everyday Albertans, and we will ensure that school fees are not raised,” an unnamed spokesperson wrote Wednesday.

School boards struggled at first with the additional paperwork Bill 1 required and families said the subsidized bus rides were applied unfairly.

Attend school free until age 21

The Education Act would raise the legal dropout age to 17 from 16, and allow young adults to attend K-12 school programs free until age 21, up from age 19.

At a March 26 news conference in Edmonton, Kenney said he didn’t know how much more it would cost, but that a UCP government would add money to the education budget “to ensure the school boards get the money they need to support mature learners.”

Draper wonders where Edmonton public will put those extra mature students when city high schools are already on track to be full by 2022.

Buffalo Trail public school board chairman Darcy Eddleston said Wednesday rural K-12 schools have concerns about accommodating 21-year-olds in the same buildings as kindergarteners. He said the change is likely to result in more students with disabilities attending school longer, which would strain board finances.

Common start age for kindergarten up in the air

The former PC government planned to write regulations creating a standard cutoff age across the province for children to start kindergarten. The regulations were never adopted, and, today, the cutoff age to start kindergarten varies across Alberta.

The NDP’s Bill 28, passed in 2017, created a common age of entry. Starting in September 2020, kindergarteners have to be age 5 by Dec. 31 of that school year. The Education Act would overwrite that change.

The UCP did not respond to questions about a kindergarten start age.

Student residency would change, potentially allowing families to game school boundaries

The Education Act would change the definition of a student’s residency to their address, not their parents’ address. Calgary and Edmonton school boards, which have some closed attendance boundaries for in-demand schools, pushed back hard against this change.

“It had the potential to cause chaos and be very unfair,” Eggen said.

Draper said high school students could move in with a friend or an aunt to get into their preferred school, making enrolment projections unpredictable, and popular schools overtaxed.

Teacher quality standards and Indigenous lessons

Bill 28 also introduced new requirements for teachers, and created a new certification process for principals and superintendents. Teachers across Alberta have been preparing for new teacher quality standards to take effect on Sept. 1. Although Kenney has said he would incorporate the quality standards into the Education Act, the party has refused to clarify whether it would keep the standards as currently written, which add new requirements for teachers to be equipped to discuss First Nations treaty rights and the history of residential schools.

“A UCP government will of course ensure high standards for teachers, principles (sic), and superintendents,” an unnamed spokesperson said in a Wednesday email.

‘Natural person powers’ for boards

The Education Act would give school boards “natural person powers,” which would give them the right to sign contracts, hire staff and acquire property without ministerial approval. Johnson said it would allow boards to more easily partner with businesses for student apprenticeship opportunities or arrange international exchanges.

New rules for charter schools

Kenney has said he would lift the provincial cap of 15 charter schools and give them more autonomy, such as the right to own property. The Education Act eliminates a reference to the minister limiting the number of charters in regulation. It also gives the minister the power to issue continuous approval for a charter school. Current regulations stipulate a charter be first approved to operate for up to five years, and, thereafter, can seek approval for up to 15 years.

Now, charter schools can charge fees to students and their families. The Education Act would require charters to stick to the same fee rules as publicly funded schools.
(Edmonton Journal)



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