What's happening at Foothills

Advocating for Designated Special Needs Private Schools

Published: Nov. 19, 2019 5:11 p.m.

Although choice is openly promoted by the UCP, we should be sure to remind the government that Designated Special Education Private Schools (DSEPS) such as Foothills Academy are more than choice, they are a need.  DSEPS serve a need beyond other independent schools.  Other private schools serve a great purpose and offer Albertan parents the right to a range of choices in education, but we firmly believe that a DSEPS like Foothills is a need and must be guaranteed stable and predictable funding so that the future of our vulnerable population is not jeopardized.

Last weekend’s hugely successful 40th Celebration was an absolute pleasure to host, and seeing so many families, alumni, stakeholders and parents making it happen reminded us of the incredible culture we have in our Foothills Family.  Thank you to all who participated as guests, volunteers and donors.  We truly cannot do this without you. 

Although much of the evening was reflecting upon our past 40 years, the challenge for Karen and I  is to envision the next 40 years, to ensure that we continue making great strides in supporting as many individuals and families as possible who are living with Learning Disabilities.  As we engage Foothills Academy’s Board of Governors in strategic planning, we will continue to be reaching out to you, our stakeholders, for feedback on the four pillars of our 40th Anniversary Legacy Fund.  The fund focuses on four areas of growth; Expand, Strengthen, Develop, and Stabilize.  These four pillars are integral to our future direction, for us to be able to continue serving individuals with Learning Disabilities.  Find out more about the Four Pillars and the Legacy Fund, and see how you can help.

The launch of this fund is timely, given the release of the Provincial Budget and the impact it has had upon some areas of education.  You may have seen in the media that Public and Charter schools took a financial hit which may considerably impact programing for certain students.  As a private school, we were not impacted directly by the budget cuts this time around; cuts to education were made by removing grants, which private schools had never had access to.  We are thankful to the honourable Adrianna LaGrange Minister of Education, for her ongoing support of private schools. 

We were proud to host Minister LaGrange, and the honourable Jason Copping, MLA for Calgary-Varsity and Minister for Labour and Immigration, on a tour of the school and Community Services in late October.  Being able to share what we do at Foothills, directly with the Minister for Education and other members of cabinet, gives us a great sense of pride.  As usual, our students and staff who met with both Ministers were exemplary and a great testament to the work and success we have at Foothills.  This was a nice opportunity for us to promote the need for Designated Special Education Private Schools (DSEPS). 

We do remain cautious however, as the next budget in March/April could impact all sectors of education, although the United Conservative Party government truly supports choice in education, which supports private schools.  The Minister for Education is tabling a Choice in Education Act in the near future.  As the government seeks input to their thoughts on choice in education, they are surveying Albertans on choice in education.  We highly recommend that you participate; the government needs to hear your voice.

School Choice Survey

Download a Hard Copy of School Choice Survey

Although choice is openly promoted by the UCP, we should be sure to remind the government that Designated Special Education Private Schools (DSEPS) such as Foothills Academy are more than choice, they are a need.  DSEPS serve a need beyond other independent schools.  Other private schools serve a great purpose and offer Albertan parents the right to a range of choices in education, but we firmly believe that a DSEPS like Foothills is a need and must be guaranteed stable and predictable funding so that the future of our vulnerable population is not jeopardized.

As you fill in the survey, the unique and vital role of Designated Special Education Private Schools (DSEPS) is perhaps something to bear in mind.  It is telling that in the survey, the list of the types of schools does not include DSEPS.  All private schools are categorized under ‘private schools’, and I believe it is important to have a distinction between ‘Private School’ and ‘Designated Special Education Private School’. 

When our stakeholders complete the survey, Foothills Academy has a voice in ‘Choice in Education’, which is important as we move forward into the challenging economic times which have fallen up Alberta.  We need to strengthen our advocacy now more than ever, to ensure we preserve the essential supports we provide to children, youth, young adults and families, living with Learning Disabilities.

If you are interested in further advocacy work for Foothills Academy, connecting with your local MLA is always a good port of call; emphasizing our ongoing support of the UCP’s direction in promoting choice in education, and the unique need for DSEPS.  Additionally, the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges of Alberta has put together a couple of informative videos to explain the benefit of all private schools, which you can see below.

Alberta's Private Schools Serve the Public Good

Alberta's Private Schools Save Tax Payers Money

We will continue advocating as a school and agency, and we know that you, our Foothills stakeholders, will let it be known that Foothills Academy is more than a choice, we are a need in the educational landscape, and we are making a difference to the lives of many.

Thanks for your support.

Simon