A new Alberta organization visited Lethbridge to advocate parents’ voices for the best approach to education for students Saturday afternoon. 

The Alberta Parents’ Union set out an open invitation for parents to ask their questions regarding education kids at the main branch of the Lethbridge Public Library.

Jeff Park, executive director of Alberta Parents’ Union, talked to The Herald about the purpose behind the meeting and explored with the parents the option of choice they may not realize they have. 

“I have had a lot of interest because people obviously care deeply about making sure their kids have the very best opportunities in school and beyond. And so the event today is just to talk about the great school choice that is offered in Alberta,” said Park.

The Alberta Parents’ Union  has more than 20,000 parents involved and over a thousand teachers. Their hopes are to improve education in kindergarten through grade 12.

Michelle Byam, one of the parents who attended the meeting, talked about her interest in attending and how she is hoping to understand more about parents’ rights in their child’s education.

“I am hoping to know what my rights are as a parent. And how much influence we can actually have in changing the current public education? Do we have a choice?” Byam asked. 

Park said the Alberta Parents’ Union would be seeking standardized tests for students to enter Alberta post-secondary institutions. He expressed the importance of this and how it can benefit home educators and international students alike. 

He explained the legal authority schools have in order to obtain a child for education. 

“To be able to educate your child in the first place is a principle so old that we have made it in Latin, loco parentis, that the school is standing in the place of the parents. Sothe school’s authority is derivative from a parent’s authority. It’s not some kind of other authority. It’s not authority that overrides a parent’s authority,” Park said.

Individuals at the meeting got the opportunity to voice their many concerns. A common concern all the parents that the meeting shared was regarding the lack of choice the parents feel they have within their children’s education. 

Susan Belter expressed her experience and the challenges she has had to face at her child’s school. She shared the connection she has with her children and how she feels parents’ choices in schools are necessary.

“I gave birth to these children. I have a right to what I expose my children to and what I don’t expose my children to. I am not OK. We pay taxes in this country as adults, so we should have a certain level of control as to what is being taught in the school,” said Belter.

Another frequent concern the audience raised was about school policy. Chuck Galambos, a parent in the audience, asked how parents can see change within their child’s school policy. 

“What are the rules of those particulate people, and how do we affect change as a parent most effectively? Do we have to go to the provincial level? To focus on the provincial level to change curriculum?” asked Galambos.

Park answered by clarifying the difference between the misinterpretation of what curriculum means and suggested the best approach of change would be through policy. He talked throughout the meeting about the importance and impact of change parents can have by running to be part of school boards.

“We think that the school board should be made up of parents of kids in the K to 12 schools that the school board has control over. You’d be shocked how few school board trustees across the 61 school boards province actually have kids underneath the school board that they administer. Because I think it’s because most parents feel that it is beyond them,” Park said.

By Steffanie Costigan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 02, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Lethbridge Herald    Lethbridge, Alberta

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