Modify Eligibility for School Transportation Rebates in Alberta Bill 1

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Part of my school routine is to take the school bus to and from school. Most years, my parents would tell me near the end of August where my stop is and what time I need to be there. This year, the changes came as a shock to me. Around the beginning of June, my parents started to bring up transportation issues, but this time, it was not about a 10-minute change or a move to another block. It was hard on:  “Go take the public transit next year… and pay an extra $365!” I don’t like getting hit in the face with a board, which is why I’m here to change something!

 Bill 1 has benefits in many aspects of schooling. In brief, school buses are free if the student is attending their designated school and is 2.4 KM away from the school. Public transit would be $151 if it is to be taken. In alternate programs, school buses are $335 and Public transit would be $700. The legal definition of “schools of choice” or alternate programs is: Schools or programs of choice are schools that are chosen because of a particular program being offered. Therefore language, cultural, sports, IB, AP, etc schools are programs of choice and are NOT GIVEN REBATES!  Please refer to the following chart for more information.

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  Due to the rebates, operating costs are increased for transportation, school boards are cutting bus lines to balance the cost of operation. In Calgary, French immersion schools are having their school buses cut, and students will be forced to take public transit in the upcoming school year. Since these students are choosing to take French immersion, NO GOVERNMENT REBATES ARE GIVEN. But instead, they are forced to take transit for $700 a year instead of taking the bus for only $335; This is a 109% increase from the previous year. Development of such Bill could have created a lopsided education system.

 As the federal government encourages school boards to implement French programs, there is a conflict occurring in some school boards. French is one of Canada’s official languages, but not all provinces are bilingual. Alberta’s provincial laws still state that French immersion schools are “schools of choice”, many school boards have now stayed away from such definition because of the bilingual nature in our country. Currently, as the 2017-18 school year creeps closer, Bill 1 uses this outdated definition for schools of choice when French and English should be treated the same. Bill 1 might have been created too hastily.

 For students like me, having our bus line cut, and not getting rebates for taking public transit is a financial burden to families. As I have stated before, Bill 1’s intention is to reduce the cost of schooling, but they are doing it on the backs of a feud. We are left in the cracks. When other regular program students are having their bus lines cut, they are given rebated public transit passes, but we are left with added costs. This is not fair.

So am I alone? The CBE has given me some hard numbers. 6050 students in alternate programs are being assigned to public transit with a $700 bill. Are we all happy about this price hike? Are we happy about not getting rebates? NO! These numbers are only for Calgary, what about Edmonton, Lethbridge, Red Deer? This number can grow a lot higher and we need support to make it easier for parents to pay for their children’s education.

 

What do we want the government to do?

1.  Change Bill 1: Work on the epicenter of the problem, this is the bill that brought on the problem. Make it so that most students are included for transportation rebates. Changing the clause for transportation, where alternate programs are included. This would be a minor change.

2.   Redefine schools of choice: If for some reasons the government will not alter  Bill 1, then why not incorporate the importance of language programs? Especially French; some students may be discouraged to take French immersion because of the price hikes!  


 This small change of a law may have an extensive impact on students and families across the province. Some choose to take alternate programs for many reasons: more extensive learning, learning a new language, etc. Adding your name to this petition can help improve this situation.

Sources can be found here!

 



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