Public engagement for proposed Choice in Education Act

Published Friday, November 15, 2019 10:00 am
Take action to support a parent's right to choose inclusion
Please respond by December 6, 2019
The Government of Alberta is currently seeking the input of Albertans as it prepares to introduce a Choice in Education Act. However, the survey, which can be found online at the Government of Alberta's website, does not take into account the decades-long efforts of families to ensure a parent has the right to choose an inclusive education and for this choice to be honoured. Inclusion Alberta believes that the rights of parents to choose the education of their children without disabilities should be no less for their children with disabilities. The right to choose should apply across every form of schooling in Alberta.

Even today, more than 40 years since the inception of inclusive education, a parent's right to choose an inclusive education is entirely a question of chance.  Parents and their children's education, and thus their future, should not be subject to a game of chance entirely dependent on where they happen to live or who happens to be the principal or teacher at a moment in time. There are Alberta school districts, principals and teachers who are committed to honouring a parent's choice for an inclusive education for students with developmental disabilities in regular classrooms and within the entire school community. However, there are also school districts, principals and teachers who do not honour a parent's choice and/or are not committed to providing quality inclusion.

As a consequence, there are families across Alberta who live in communities where one school district respects parental choice for inclusion and another does not. In other circumstances, if a parent were to move across the street they could be residents of a school district that supports inclusion while the district where they currently reside does not honour their choice. Or, dependent on a parent's faith, they may have access to an inclusive education in one district, while a family with a different faith does not. Other families find access to an inclusive education comes and goes depending on who the principals or teachers are from one year to the next or one subject to the next. And there are parents whose choice for inclusion is continuously challenged year after year when their decision ought to be respected. This is clearly unfair and discriminatory.  

We urge Albertans who believe a parental choice should be an equal right for all to complete the government's survey. This applies to parents of children with and without disabilities, as inclusion benefits all students. While the survey does not address parental choice in terms of inclusion there are multiple opportunities throughout the survey where you can indicate that you believe a Choice in Education Act should enshrine in law a parent's right to choose an inclusive education. Below are some examples of sections of the survey that you can complete accordingly. Unfortunately, the survey questions are not numbered so you may have to open the survey and refer to this post to know which question is being referenced.

Survey Questions

For the following question you can indicate, in your own words, that choice includes having the right to choose an inclusive education (across every schooling option).

What does choice in education mean to you? (Please write your thoughts in the box below)

For the following question please add, if applicable, in the "Other" box, if your child is receiving or did receive an inclusive education.

What type of school (K-12) do you or your children attend? (Select all that apply)

For this next question, consider sharing all the reasons you chose or wish you had the choice for an inclusive education.

What are the reasons that you/your child chose this school(s)/program(s)? (Please write in the box below)

For the question below, please consider the following possibilities as they might relate to your individual circumstances. For example, if you were told inclusion was not possible due to funding or resources, you can indicate how dissatisfied you were with this response and why. If you were told your child could be included but without the needed supports, again you could indicate your degree of satisfaction and why. If you were told that inclusion is a choice and one readily available, you could respond accordingly.

How satisfied are you with the information available to you on the different school/program opportunities available to you/your child? (Select one.)
Please write your reason for this in the box below.

For this next question, and given a parental right to choose an inclusive education does not yet exist in Alberta, you may want to indicate your dissatisfaction with the current lack of equal rights for parents and comment accordingly.

Are you satisfied with the current amount of choice in education in Alberta? (Select one.)
Please write your reason for this in the box below.

The last question of the survey asks what's working well and where improvement is needed in terms of choice. Here we would suggest acknowledging when the choice for inclusion has been respected, if that has been your reality, but also noting that it is simply wrong for a parent's choice for an inclusive education to be entirely a matter of luck based on where a parent happens to live or who happens to be the principal or teacher at a moment in time.

Again, the Choice in Education Act survey can be found through the Government of Alberta's website. You can also find a PDF of the survey that can be submitted by email or regular mail, at the same website.