02/24/2017 11:08 EST | Updated 02/25/2018 00:12 EST

Groups push for Alberta to phase out funding for private schools

EDMONTON — Public Interest Alberta and 13 other groups are urging the provincial government to phase out public funding of private schools over three years.

The groups say that money — $248 million last year alone — could go to reduce school fees and class sizes, increase supports in classrooms and bring in a school lunch program.

They point out those were some of the promises the NDP made in the last election campaign.

The groups say they are OK with continued funding for special education schools.

Arlene Hrynyk, president of Public School Boards Association of Alberta, says by continuing to support Alberta’s private schools, funds are being taken away from children in the public system.

Advocates of private schools say it's cheaper for taxpayers to partially fund private schools than to place those students elsewhere. 

"The simple math is that, on average, $5,100 or $5,200 goes to a student who goes into an independent school," said John Jagersma, executive director of the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges of Alberta.

"If that child crosses the road and goes into a public school, it costs the taxpayer $13,000."

Michael Janz, chairman of the Edmonton Public School Board, said other provinces don't fund private schools.

"Private schools in five Canadian provinces do not receive a single penny from public funds, yet Alberta funds them at a rate of 70 per cent. Clearly that needs to change.”

The board passed a motion last year that the provincial government should divert public funding away from private schools and reinvest it in public education.

— With files from CHQR