“Those who pay attention to history will know that Conservative governments have a track record of making seemingly innocuous changes that pave the way to privatization.” ― Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Calgary (13 Sept. 2019) ― As reported by CBC, Alberta’s United Conservative Party (UCP) government has removed the word “public” from all Alberta schools and school boards. The change affects 8 of 41 divisions across the province.
Official reasoning vague
When asked why the change was made, a representative for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange stated the change was made to streamline the naming conventions of Alberta’s public school divisions.
The changes, however, are expected to hit hard financially, as items such as new stationery will have to be ordered, and equipment and buses with school branding will have to be replaced. The government has stated there will be a grace period for making changes, but it’s unclear how much it will ultimately cost.
First step towards privatization?
Though not mentioned outright, many fear this could be the UCP’s first move towards privatizing education. Removing the word public could signify that the government is trying to remove the connection between education and public services from the public eye.
This comes on the heels of the UCP lifting the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the province — a move that was criticized for increasing inequality between the families of rich and low-income students. Charter schools receive public funding but have the right to refuse a student for enrolment. They also don’t have publicly elected boards, and teachers in charter schools aren't required to be members of the Alberta Teacher’s Association.
“Those who pay attention to history will know that Conservative governments have a track record of making seemingly innocuous changes that pave the way to privatization,” warned Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees. He added, “We’ll be keeping an eye on the changes this government implements and will continue to raise public awareness to hold the government accountable.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE