This was an issue that frequently was raised with me during the election-- why can't all Albertans vote for both Public and Catholic School Boards?
You may not know this, In Alberta, your local Catholic School district is fully paid for by all Alberta taxpayers, not only Roman Catholics. Catholic schools are owned by albertans and are not church assets, because they are entirely funded by the provincial government. The teachers belong to the Alberta Teachers’ Association and are teaching the Alberta curriculum. The two systems belong to all Albertans but, while Catholics can vote for public school trustees, non-Catholics may not vote for separate school trustees, even if they are sending children to separate schools. No other religion gets their own school system fully-funded by taxpayers.
You pay, you should have a say!
All citizens get a chance to vote for their municipal officials -- this makes sense, you pay property taxes and are a member of the community, right?
But why, so long as we have school boards, and so long as the government pays for a duplicate Catholic school system do you not get a right to vote for both? I could understand the argument that if these are private schools that receive no public subsidy that they should be able to govern themselves accordingly.
Remember, your tax dollars pay for both systems (regardless of where you send your property taxes, which only make up a fraction of the operating costs anyways).
Here are some other important arguments to consider:
- School boards spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually and control billions of dollars of land and assets across Alberta. This is serious money-- your tax dollars-- so wouldn't you like a say in how it is being spent?
- Only 17% of Edmontonians in 2014-2015 designated their taxes to the Catholic schools. That's only $200 million compared to almost $2 Billion to the public school system.
- Only 8% of Edmontonians voted for Catholic School Trustee in the 2017 civic election.
- About 25% of students attending Edmonton Separate schools are not Catholic. Yet the law as it is written would deny their parents the right to vote for the school trustees who will determine their child’s education. This is wrong. Students can be served by both systems, why can’t voters have a say in both systems?
- If you are a parent and you have one child in a public and one child in a Catholic school, shouldn't you be allowed to vote for both boards?
- If all citizens were allowed to vote for both boards, it would lead to more moderate views reflective of the whole populace elected. Concerns have been raised that there is a growing polarity between Catholic School Boards and civil society on topics such as sexual health education, human rights, and more. Former Catholic Trustee Patricia Grell raised important questions about Who is really in charge? The Bishop or the democratic electorate?
- Former Education Minister David King commented that Separate schools are not an organ of the church, but rather a civil democratic institution and as such should be democratically governed and accountable to the laws of Alberta, not church/canon law.
- Concerns have been raised about the amount of public tax dollars being spent on church functions rather than on education. That is dollars that could be used to hire teachers or provide more efficient bussing.
- Across Alberta, School board turnout is low anyway. More voters for both boards would lead to more engagement in both systems and support for publicly funded education!
- There is no "test" when you go to vote. The person giving you the ballot has no idea if you are a practicing Catholic or if you direct your taxes to the public system.
Do you think your lack of fair representation is an issue?
Some will suggest that fair voting is only a half measure and that it is time for a provincial referendum to abolish separate duplicate Catholic school systems altogether. In the meantime, so long as there are still fully-paid for Catholic school boards,shouldn’t all Albertans still have a say?
If you agree, sign up below. Let me know what you think, as this is an issue at our public school board table.