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EDMONTON – The Alberta Government is again raising the specter of private for profit education funded by taxpayers. That was the charge by CUPE Local 474 (Edmonton Public School Custodial Workers) President Doug Luellman to media reports that the Alberta government is considering a proposal to create a parallel, private school system funded by the taxpayer.

According to media reports, the proposal will be presented to a government standing policy committee on Tuesday by Inlets, a Calgary-based organization operating the private Calgary Academy. The proposal calls for an education system funded by the government directly and responsible not to the public but to a corporate board of directors.

“This is modeled on the American private for profit education corporations, none of which have been successful to date in improving student achievement,” says Luellman.

“The irony is that these private for profit models are quick to make questionable claims about their successes and the failures of public education, while demanding that the public pay for them, ” says Luellman. “The only reason some private schools and independent charter schools have been successful is that they have lower student to teacher ratios, which is something the Alberta Government refuses to fund in public schools.”

According to media reports, the cost of the centre would be $45 million and would be paid for with public funds, while the corporation would charge Albertans for use of their services. According to the company’s business report, part of the funding would come from families who would “pay for CERA services if they believe there will be a direct positive impact on their children’s learning outcomes.”

“This means that while all Albertans will pay for this school through our tax dollars, only the wealthy will benefit from their services,” said Luellman.

Luellman questioned the need for the school, given that it wasn’t recommended by the learning commission and no one, other than the company itself, seemed to be looking for these services.

“At no time has this proposal to privatize public education or create a parallel provincial school system to the existing system ever been discussed in public, ” says Luellman. “It was never raised during the Learning Commission hearings, nor has there been a demand for it from the public.”

“To add insult to injury the Government members on the standing policy committee refuse to discuss this proposal stating that their public meeting is ” a private hearing” for a “private presentation.”

“Once again special interests are pushing their agenda within the Conservative Government for the privatization of public education,” says Luellman.

“It is clear to us that education and health care are key issues in the upcoming Provincial election,” says Luellman. “The government has a not so hidden agenda to privatize both. We need to stop them. The best way to do that will be by turfing the Tories out.”