Shutting down Trinity Christian School makes no sense

Unless the decision was actually a stealth attack by the Notley government on home schooling

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Trinity Christian notley governmentCALGARY, Alta. Nov. 4, 2016/ Troy Media/ – If a public school appeared to have mismanaged some money but was providing a good education for its students, would Alberta Education Minister David Eggen shut the school down? Without warning? In the middle of the semester?

Not likely.

Even if the school had only 300 students, or fewer, Eggen would not inconvenience those parents, students and teachers.

Yet this is exactly what Eggen has done to Trinity Christian School, which has more than 3,500 students. Without warning, in the middle of the semester, Eggen informed Trinity on Oct. 25 that its accreditation and funding were withdrawn, effective immediately. The parents of these 3,500 Trinity kids are suddenly without a school for their children.

Trinity is not a regular public school. Rather, it supervises home schooling for more than 3,500 students across Alberta, through the Wisdom Home Schooling Society. This non-profit society has been providing resources to parents for more than 20 years, with the full knowledge and approval of Alberta Education. There is no secrecy here.

The society serves parents who educate their children at home, at a fraction of what it costs taxpayers for public schools. Public schools in Alberta cost taxpayers about $10,000 per student per year, in contrast to a home-schooling grant of less than $1,700 per student per year.

The minister claims to shut down Trinity “out of respect for taxpayers.” This is rather laughable: if these 3,500 students go to public schools, it will cost taxpayers an extra $29 million per year.

More to the story: [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]The facts behind private schools in Alberta[/popup] by Derek Allison

Money aside, home schooling is a good option for many parents and children for many reasons. Alberta and other provinces have generally respected the freedom of parents to choose home schooling as the kind of education they think is best for their children. This accords with both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Canada’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Alberta Education accuses Trinity of not meeting accountability standards, including financial accountability. In the absence of problems with kids learning what they are supposed to learn, why address financial accountability issues by shutting down the school entirely? Why not put Trinity and the society on probation? Why not appoint an auditor as interim manager for the remainder of the school year, so 3,500 children can continue learning without interruption?

Since the government’s announcement, parents are discovering that other boards are not able to take on new students. Budgets were set, teachers were hired, and decisions were made in August and September. Yet Alberta Education now states that it “feels” that other school authorities “should” be able to absorb all 3,500 home-educated students.

Last summer, Alberta Education was fully aware that the society provided the home-schooling services to parents, rather than Trinity doing so itself. If this was truly a problem (as is now claimed), the government could have shut down Trinity and the society in July. Instead, the government told Trinity to continue with business as usual.

Shutting down a school in late October, based on issues the government was aware of in July, is a shocking abuse of power.

Eggen loves to trumpet his commitment to a “welcoming, caring, respectful and safe” learning environment. But closing Trinity’s doors is not welcoming. Abruptly terminating students’ education is not caring. Imposing an extreme measure when reasonable alternatives are available is not respectful. And sending 3,500 students to look for placements that don’t exist isn’t safe.

Unless this decision to shut down Trinity is actually a stealth attack on home-schooling, it makes no sense for Eggen to proceed further with this aggressive and unnecessary decision. He has the power to reverse it and should do so.

Calgary lawyer John Carpay is president of the [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1200″ scrollbars=”1″]Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms[/popup].

John is a Troy Media [popup url=”” height=”1000″ width=”1000″ scrollbars=”1″]contributor[/popup]. [popup url=”” height=”600″ width=”600″ scrollbars=”1″] Why aren’t you?[/popup]

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