Foundations for the Future Charter Academy is celebrating a renewed funding commitment for a new high school, while education advocates are questioning the support as public high schools face increased overcrowding and disrepair.
FFCA officials have received a letter from NDP Education Minister David Eggen, saying the province will replace its existing high school, formerly the Calgary Board of Education’s Montgomery School. But while there is no set date or amount given, the letter also states the funding was actually earmarked by the previous Conservative government.
“To be clear, funding has never been cancelled for this project,” Eggen states in the letter.
“Like they did in many other situations, the previous government made a commitment to your school community to renovate Montgomery School with no plans to follow through on that commitment. We will actually see to it that your school is replaced to meet the needs of your students.”
Jeff Wilson, board chair for FFCA, toured the media through the high school last month, raising concerns that government funding had been put on pause since the fall of 2015 just after the NDP won the last election.
After an engineering report identified structural damage, sinkholes and uneven slabs on the school’s main floor, Wilson said the need for funding was dire and structural deficiencies were becoming a safety issue.
“This is a community of charter schools that has felt undervalued and overlooked,” Wilson said.
Last weekend, at a rally celebrating the renewed funding, representatives from both major parties — including UCP MLA Ric McIver and NDP MLA Irfan Sabir — attended to show support. Wilson hopes it means the school will get funding in place to start construction by the fall, no matter who forms government after this spring’s election.
But Barb Silva, spokeswoman for Support Our Students education advocacy group, argues charter schools, many of which have hidden fees, admission requirements and lengthy wait lists, should not receive funding ahead of public schools that are overflowing and in need of repairs.
“CBE is facing $1.3-billion in deferred maintenance — so the fact that this school is in disrepair is no surprise. Almost every school is in disrepair,” Silva said.
“Yet we are seeing preferential treatment given to a charter school, where they advocate for public funds and then close their doors,” added Silva, referring to FFCA’s wait list of up to 13,000 students.
“Parents of public high school students have also been protesting, organizing and yelling. Where is their …read more