It is arguably the most definitive stance David Eggen has taken so far on the issue of enforcing sexual orientation and gender identity policies.
According to the opening paragraphs of one CBC article:
Education Minister David Eggen says he will “aggressively pursue” schools that refuse to comply with new guidelines to protect LGBTQ students. “The urgency that’s attached to this circumstance, I recognize very clearly,” Eggen said Thursday. “So, certainly I will be moving on it very quickly, and you’ll see.
However, the Minister of Education will definitely have to clarify these statements, as he is now clearly contradicting his earlier assurances to Albertans in March that the Guidelines were “not legally binding”
The debate about funding has certainly escalated in the public sphere, with a lot of media coverage making it a front and centre issue.
It seems the greatest threat currently looming on the horizon is the removal of taxpayer funding for “non-compliant” schools, as well as potential court battles and the possibility of more legislation to impose government directives.
Based on the media reports, those advocating for defunding educational choice use two main arguments:
1. Funding educational choice costs taxpayers more money.
Actually, the opposite is true. According to one comprehensive report, independent schools helped save Albertan taxpayers $750 million dollars.
Not only that, but as stated in the petition, taxpayers are the ones who provide “public” money. That means the diversity of educational choices, funded either fully or partially through public dollars, should reflect the diversity of Albertans who provide that funding.
To suggest that only some educational choices are “valid” to receive public taxpayer funding demonstrates a shockingly discriminatory premise of inequality which declares that the needs and values of some people are worthy of inclusion in our publicly funded education system – and others are not.
This premise undermines and fundamentally corrupts the functioning of a pluralistic, multicultural and free, democratic society.
And that is not progress.
2. Funding should be removed because schools are not keeping students safe
In an Edmonton Journal article, Pastor Brian Coldwell responded to allegations that his two independent Christian schools are unsafe:
“The schools have a ‘zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy’ from a distinctly Christian perspective, Coldwell said. Any suggestion children are unsafe in the schools is untrue and defamatory, he said”.
Donna Trimble, Executive Director for Parents for Choice in Education, highlighted the same “incorrect and dangerous correlation” in the Calgary Sun:
“Parents, teachers, schools and communities can care compassionately for at-risk youth without agreeing that the policies being enforced by government are beneficial”
…Correlating compassion and care with acceptance of particular policies will always lead to the shutting down of debate, which is the keystone of every democratic nation.”
In response to the news of Pastor Coldwell’s schools, one woman’s personal experience was widely circulated on social media, entitled “Why One Alberta Mom Thinks Funding Private Christian Schools Isn’t Just Wrong…It’s Dangerous”.
Obviously this woman’s experience is devastating and my heart breaks when I hear of anyone suffering for any reason.
However, is it reasonable to take the experience of one person and generalize that experience to justify removing educational choice from countless other families in a different context?
What if I apply that reasoning to a similar personal experience?
I know a close friend who was bullied so relentlessly in public school that she was driven to self-harm and suicide attempts. Thankfully my friend’s parent removed her daughter from that school and they had a much more positive experience with home education. That decision may have been responsible for saving my friend’s life.
However, on the basis of my friend’s personal experience, would it be reasonable to claim public schools are dangerous for everyone and then justify removal of funding from all public schools to home education instead?
I think not.
In fact, the wonderful strength of freedom of choice is that if one setting does not serve the particular needs and values of a child or a family then they have the opportunity to make a different choice.
Using taxpayer funds to impose a “one size fits all” system does not effectively address the diversity of Albertans, nor does it demonstrate the principle of “inclusion” that the the government seems to laud so highly otherwise.
And that is why a disturbing precedent will be set if the government finds justification to remove funding from Pastor Brian Coldwell’s school in this situation.
Please continue to encourage as many people as possible to sign the online petition, and also consider contacting your MLA and phoning the Minister of Education’s office directly (780 427 5010) in order to voice your support for authentic educational choice.
Province funds millions to school board fighting LGBTQ guidelines, CBC News
(*Thank you to Andrea Huncar for including mention of our petition in her reporting!)
Funding at risk for religious schools that won’t respect students’ rights, education minister says, Edmonton Journal