The Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta
Provisional Position Paper — Public and Separate Schools
Public school education is unique, valuable and attractive. The defining
and unique characteristic of public school education is that it is inclusive,
from the classroom, to the boardroom, to the voting booth. It is inclusive
by design and as a matter of conviction.
(Practically speaking, the PSBAA means by "inclusive" that,
at the local jurisdiction level, the system is committed to:
- Accept every child without regard for race, religion, colour, economic
circumstances, or other prejudicial considerations, and without regard
for lack of space or other resources;
- Hire, promote, and discharge staff without regard for race, religion,
colour, economic circumstances, or other prejudicial considerations;
- Accept every person who lives in the community as a resident, ratepayer,
elector, and, if successful in being elected, as a trustee of the jurisdiction,
without regard for race, religion, colour, economic circumstances, or
other prejudicial considerations.
To put it another way, no public school board would ever claim the right
to refuse a child/student on any basis.)
Inclusiveness expresses itself in two equally important and inseparable
- To ensure the best possible education for every student and provide
opportunities for both teachers and students to make the most of the
learning experience; and,
- To ensure that the education of students is provided in a context
which deliberately and consistently models the best qualities of leadership
and of civil democracy. To put it another way, it is the work of the
public school system to create and sustain "the public".
The Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta exists to advocate
the benefits of inclusiveness, and to support these two roles. Every
single student benefits from our commitment, and so does the whole community.
Notwithstanding our view that these two roles are profoundly important,
in Alberta parents can choose a number of education options that are
not public education although they are publicly funded and regulated.
Alberta’s separate school system is one alternative to the public school
system. The separate school system is unique in itself: it is guaranteed
by the Constitution and the guarantee extends to ensuring that separate
schools have some rights to discriminate that are forbidden for public
For historic reasons, one of only two religious groups in Alberta, either
Protestants or Roman Catholics, may choose to establish a constitutionally
protected system of education which is independent of the public school
system and exclusively for the members of the group. The key to this
right is that the group entitled to establish a separate school system
must be the smaller of these two groups in the community.
Always and everywhere, the PSBAA will be an advocate, to all Albertans,
of the all-inclusive public school system. Our advocacy will extend to
situations in which the establishment of a separate school district is
proposed. The process by which separate school jurisdictions are established
is democratic and it occurs in the public school community: the public
school community has a responsibility to participate in the process to
the extent that the Constitution allows.
Whether or not a separate school jurisdiction exists in a community,
the Association will support local developments likely to meet the needs
of everyone in a community, within an all-inclusive school system.
The right (of the dissentient religious minority) to choose to establish
a separate school system is assured by the Constitution. The constitutional
assurance is the fulfillment of a political agreement: it does not guarantee
a fundamental freedom. The Province is under no obligation, and ought
not, to extend the terms of this constitutional agreement to any other
dissentient religious minority. In matters related to education, we believe
that rights can and should be exercised within existing jurisdictions,
not by extending, to other groups, the right to establish more kinds
of separate jurisdictions.
It is open to the people of Alberta at any time to consider amendments
to the Constitution. The Constitution itself provides some requirements
that must be met in order to make amendments. Experience and growth in
understanding suggest that the amending process should evolve. The PSBAA
favours an evolutionary development that goes beyond the conventional
understanding of the amending procedure. We believe that the process should
show a greater generosity of spirit toward the dissentient religious minority.
It is the position of the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta
that no amendment affecting the rights of the dissentient religious minority
should be enacted unless the principle of the amendment is approved by
a double majority of the people of Alberta, a majority of the dissentient
religious minority and a majority of Albertans other than those who are
of the dissentient religious minority.
In simple terms, we will not be part of a political process by which
the majority would use its numbers to impose its will on the minority.
Our Vision will be achieved when the minority freely chooses to rejoin
the majority, in the public school system. The result will be that one
whole community will be working to ensure that public school is the best
it can be for every child and for the community as a whole.
In the meantime, the Association understands and operates completely
within the spirit of the Constitution.
This position paper was approved in principle by the members of the
Association at our Fall General Meeting, 1998. The position is to be
reconsidered in light of discussions with the Alberta Catholic School
PSBAA and the Learning Commission
The Province’s Learning Commission reported October 7, 2003 after 15 months of consultation. View PSBAA’s submission What No One Else Says [218 KB]
View Commission’s Report, news releases and commentary
Keeping It Close to Home [192 KB]
A Preliminary Analysis of The Report of Alberta’s Commission on Learning
PSBAA Submission to the Standing Policy Committee on Learning and Employment [14
KB] February 3, 2003
LEADING LOCAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES
Leading Local Learning Committees is PSBAA’s guide to its principles, policy direction and vision.