Alberta union leader wonders what’s wrong with ‘public’ schools

The Alberta leader of Canada’s largest union says taking the word ‘public’ out of the names of public-school districts in the province makes no sense.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Alberta President Rory Gil says the Ministerial Order by Minister of Education and Red Deer North MLA Adriana LaGrange last month, has such little value that he believes something else must be at play.

In a CUPE news release on Friday, it’s suggested Gill believes the move is a subtle change aimed at getting Albertans ready for more private schools.

“The term public implies ‘open to anyone’ and ‘in the broad community interest’,” and said “There is great value in keeping the term in the names of Alberta school divisions.”

“Who could be against a word that implies inclusion and community benefit?” asked Gill. “Why would a government want divisions to spend tax dollars on rebranding?”

“The Kenney government has already sent strong signals it wants to increase the number of private, elite schools in the province, and this move is clearly a means to hide them among other schools in our communities,” continued Gil.

“Instead of taking the public out of public schools, let’s just be honest about the other schools and call them what they are – schools for the rich and privileged,” Gil declared.

Speaking to reporters in Red Deer on Thursday, LaGrange says the move is part of the government’s new Education Act which went into effect Sept. 1.

“That just means that we are upgrading the School Act,” explained LaGrange. “We’re modernizing it and we’re just bringing things into the 21st century and that we have opportunities now to look at a student-focused approach. Of course it’s been student-focused before but now we’re looking at it in a more in-depth, more practical way.”

CUPE is Canada’s largest union, representing 680,000 members nationwide, including almost 38,000 Albertans.

(With file from CUPE Alberta media release)