Local reader takes issue with a recent education column

I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts about a guest editorial written by Kelly Ernst

I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts about a guest editorial written by Kelly Ernst and published on May 2 under the headline ‘Albertans don’t support privatizing public education’.

In particular, I would like to share my concerns about the manner in which information pertaining to the funding of private schools was presented, and the alleged neutrality of the study referenced by Mr. Ernst.

Mr. Ernst fails to mention the elimination of operational grants to private schools in the provincial budget released March 7 which has imposed a real reduction of over 10% in total grant revenues for private schools.

The elimination of these grants has had a total effect of about a 2% reduction in revenues for fully funded schools. Yet he insists that private school funding is not only increasing, but outpacing funding for public schools. Mr. Ernst also states that “those who can afford the extra tuition” remove funding from public education.

However, the funding statistics he provides in prior paragraphs indicate that much of this funding does not follow them. One can only conclude that their decision is actually revenue positive for the public purse, which is indeed the case.

Mr. Ernst uses the word ‘parents’ to describe those who opt for public education, but those who do not are described as the agents of murky and sinister ‘private interests’.

I must emphasize that they are also parents and members of the public who shoulder a proportionate share of the tax load and are entitled to the same rights and protections as any other citizen.

It would seem that the survey commissioned by the foundation Mr. Ernst represents is seriously flawed – that we are to believe that 99.5% of respondents of any allegedly representative survey come to the same conclusion about a complex issue is, in and of itself, ludicrous.

I am reminded of another ‘survey’ in which 99.96% of the respondents came to the same conclusion – the election of Saddam Hussein as president of Iraq in 1995!

It is important to remember that our unquestioned right to express ourselves does not include a guarantee of its responsible use. That right ought not to be used to cloud the truth, which can only impede our collective efforts to achieve a society committed to what is just, right and ultimately beneficial for all.

Sadly, it seems to me that in the final analysis Mr. Ernst has misrepresented the facts and relegated the informed decisions of present and past governments, and the opinions of many whose votes put them there, to the ideological dustbin on the authority of a survey of questionable design.

I can only hope that the readers of his editorial have given it a careful reading and come to the same conclusion.

Pete Hoekstra