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Health crisis raising questions about public and private school systems

Last Updated Sep 9, 2020 at 8:45 am MST

CALGARY (CITYNEWS) – The public health crisis has parents across the country looking for the safest choice for their kids and it’s leading to a rise in pod and private schooling, but there are concerns the fragmenting of education could put the future of public schools at risk, setting up a two-tiered system.

“I think the rest of the country can look towards Alberta and see us almost as a cautionary tale,” said Madeana Moussa, Executive Director of Support Our Students.

The funding model is different in every province, but in Alberta, public money allocated for each child follows the student.

“Money directly leaves the public system and goes whether it’s private, charter, homeschooling, whatever that school authority is that that student registers for is where the money goes so it definitely takes money out of the public system,” Moussa explained.

Dr. Eugene Kowch, Professor at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary says people are looking into their options as the pandemic continues to change education.

READ MORE: Quebec government reveals nearly 50 educational institutions struck by COVID-19

“I think it will offer new opportunities for education,” he said. “We are seeing a new conversation starting about, ‘Oh, I didn’t know these options were there, what are my responsibilities? I can do this, I can do that.’ It’s very different for people of means who can afford to pay above what the public system will cover and does create a bit of a market mentality.”

Moussa agrees there should be a choice, but she says public money should stay where it is.

“I don’t have a problem with people making a choice for their children, they absolutely should, but if you’re going to take public dollars out of a public system, it should not go into a private industry,” she said.

READ MORE: Hinshaw urges parents and children to stay home if they feel sick this fall

The unknown future of the virus will make an impact on the decisions parents make, that will shape and reshape the current education models across the country.

“Yes, some people will be disadvantaged especially when subsequent private systems like pods, which aren’t really a recognized part of anything, start to attract a lot of interest. I wouldn’t get too distracted with that. The schools will be back in full swing when we get this thing cured and I think we need to be ready for that more than anything,” said Kowch.