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Last time, I discussed the environment and time in which the Alberta Home Education Association (AHEA) was created. I also briefly mentioned the history of another agency that had a completely different approach to helping the home education community in this province. This agency was the Home Education Corporation of Alberta (HECA).
HECA drifted off into the annals of history but while in existence, it was very different from AHEA. HECA wanted to completely separate the home educated from the authority and control of the government while AHEA negotiated with the government to obtain greater freedom and protection which ultimately proved to be the more successful approach. The debate continues as to whether or not it was the best approach and alas, we have what we have.
AHEA was successful in advancing protection for the home educated and I would be remiss if I did not applaud AHEA’s influence in the formation of the 1988 School Act. This was the first piece of legislation in the province’s history to even mention home education. AHEA’s insistence on protecting home educators from undue persecution or unreasonable demands resulted in the creation and entrenchment of a unique educational phenomenon, that of the willing non-resident board which continues to this day.
This made it possible for home educators to register with any willing, shall we say friendly or non-aggressive school board in the province. No longer did they have to put up with the persecution or abuse of local “authorities”. This change effectively ended the persecution of the home educating in this province and essentially provided peace within the government system. This occurred over 30 years ago!
Before proceeding with this historical narrative, I need to remind you that Alberta remains perhaps the only jurisdiction to openly support home education with funding. It should come as no surprise that while this funding can be a blessing to most, it has also been the root cause of nearly all the negative problems associated with home education in this province. It would, therefore, be good to know the history respecting funding.
Early home educators were fully funded by the government as though attending school. School boards did not share any of this funding, although, as previously mentioned, some did condescend to providing copies of school books in an effort to direct the home educated to follow prescribed programming. I do know that in some instances, school boards paid for other curriculum, but I believe that was a rather rare occurrence.
Once the School Act was passed in 1988, home educated students were suddenly in demand, not due to any real change of attitude respecting who was in control or in authority, but simply because they came with the full funding of regular school students.
AHEA wasted no time in convincing a Catholic school board in Oyen, Alberta to start accepting the home educated of the province and there were a few smaller and/or poorer school jurisdictions in the province who were quick to see the potential in accepting students from outside of their district. The home educating were now free from tyrannical jurisdictions, however, they were now being valued due to the funding associated with these students, rather than through philosophical agreement. Schools started making ever more generous offers of financial assistance as incentives to join their boards.
AHEA’s push for greater autonomy resulted in the government providing what was initially viewed as a very good solution to home education persecution, but it did come with a continued compliance to government claims of authority in education and it created a whole new problem of monetizing home educating children.
No one could have predicted how this new development would affect the home education community. Typical of government “leadership,” the introduction of the willing non-resident board was done without actually conceptualizing how this would be administered or what the long term consequences could be. In the meantime, the home educated quickly became a “commodity” worth pursuing.