Education Act sets students on path to success
Legislation reflects renewed commitment to education system.
Extensive consultations with Albertans have helped ensure new education legislation provides the best possible framework to support excellence in education in the province.
“Albertans put a high priority on education. As Albertans, we have shared many ideas, and people have said that a future-focused Act needs to speak to responsibilities, collaboration and community, because everyone has a role in helping students succeed,” said Minister of Education Thomas Lukaszuk. “Students, parents, teachers and support staff indicated the Act proposed last year had a lot of things right, and what we’ve done is make an already strong bill, even stronger.”
Last fall, after a preliminary consultation with school boards and stakeholder organizations about how well the draft legislation reflected the findings of the Inspiring Education dialogue with Albertans, Lukaszuk engaged students, parents, teachers and members of the community in a discussion on how the Education Act could be updated. This collaborative effort is reflected in Bill 2, which was introduced in the Alberta Legislature on February 14.
The updated Act emphasizes that education is the shared responsibility of all partners in education; occurs in an increasingly diverse range of learning environments; and must focus on the concept of each student reaching his or her own potential. It also outlines that the importance of learning environments being welcoming, caring, respectful and safe cannot be understated.
The Education Act recognizes the fundamental importance of education for all Albertans as individuals in the pursuit of passions, interests, and lifelong learning.
If passed, the Education Act will replace the School Act of 1988, which currently guides the governance of education in Alberta. It will allow school boards to decide for themselves how to work co-operatively with other organizations to develop students who are engaged, ethical, and entrepreneurial and who become life-long learners while contributing to the economic and social wellbeing of their communities.
Albertans have talked to government extensively over the past few years about the future of education. Based on the recent Our Children, Our Future: Getting It Right consultations, the Act has been refined to incorporate new ideas that emerged, complementing prior initiatives including Inspiring Education, Setting the Direction for Special Education, Speak Out: The Student Engagement Initiative and Inspiring Action on Education.
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Highlights of the Education Act include:
Access to education
- Bases residency on the residence of the student rather than where the student’s parent(s) live, which recognizes the increasingly mobile nature of our society.
- Increases the age of access to 21, allowing students more time to graduate and aligning Alberta with the majority of other provinces and jurisdictions.
- Raises the age of compulsory attendance to 17 from 16 years to encourage more students to complete their high school education.
Student success and opportunities for learning
- Emphasizes the importance of welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments by defining bullying and providing more direction for boards.
- Requires boards to develop a student code of conduct that addresses bullying behaviour, whether or not it occurs within a school building, during the school day or by electronic means.
- Confirms the Government of Alberta’s commitment to a publicly funded education system that provides a choice of educational opportunities to students.
- Describes the provision of specialized supports and services, recognizing that the needs of all students will be met within a single inclusive education system.
- Enables more flexible learning opportunities and supports for students by providing school boards with natural person powers. Natural person powers give boards the discretion to fulfill their responsibilities to the community within the limits placed on what they cannot do instead of what they can do.
Governance and collaboration
- Emphasizes the partnership roles and responsibilities of students, parents, school boards and trustees.
- Provides the Minister of Education with the authority to establish a Student Advisory Council so that the student voice can be heard more directly.
- Changes procedural requirements for the establishment of separate school districts, improving the transparency of the process and providing opportunities for public input.
- Allows separate school electors the choice of which school board to vote for or run as trustee in, improving the democratic process while protecting minority denominational constitutional rights.
- Provides criteria around the establishment of charter schools, expands who may establish them, and provides for regulations to establish criteria by which a charter may be issued on a continuing basis.
- Compels schools boards to collaborate with post-secondary institutions and the community to enable smooth transitions for students from high school to post-secondary education.
Administrative and financial responsibility
- Requires boards to establish an audit committee with public members, highlighting the importance of partnerships and collaboration.
- Allows boards to appoint a superintendent without the prior approval of the Minister of Education.
- Removes specific requirements related to the transportation of students, allowing boards to be more responsive to the needs of their community when determining how to best provide safe and appropriate transportation to their students.
- Allows school boards to charge student fees in accordance with regulations.
- Allows the Minister of Education to close a private school where the financial administration of the school is unstable and threatens student learning.
For more information, visit the Alberta Education website at www.education.alberta.ca/educationact.