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Notice of Motion: School Fees for Sports Academies

September 22, 2014

I placed this Notice of Motion at the September 9, 2014 Public Board Meeting:

Our district is a publicly funded, Catholic Christian district which provides sports academies for elite athletes.  Some of these sports academies charge parents $2,300 per student per year.  Yet many of our academies are located in areas of the city with a higher than average number of low income families.  According to the City of Edmonton website, the community of Glengarry for example where O’Leary is situated has an average household income of $58,552– $14,398 lower than the city average.  And St. Edmund school is located in Calder which has an average household income of $54,047 which is $18,903 lower than the city average.  St. Mark which is located in the community of Woodcroft has an average income of $48,969 which is $23,981 lower than the city average.

Motion:

I move that our district provide both full and partial subsidies or scholarships to ensure that our district encourages students of all socio-economic backgrounds to participate in our sports academies and that these subsidies be well advertised so that parents are made aware that subsidies exist.

This motion was debated at the October 14, 2014 public board meeting and was voted down.  The reason?  Because apparently we already offer subsidies.  Here’s how it was explained at the public board meeting by our superintendent:  first of all it is up to a teacher or principal to identify students who have a physical aptitude for the sports academy and if they think that they do, and they could greatly benefit from participating in it, the principal will approach the parent council to ask for the subsidy.  If the parent council which has money from fundraisers such as casinos, decides that they will support the student, then the student gets the money.  If the parent council has other priorities, then the student would not get it. It is important to note that these “subsidies” are not advertised so a parent would never know that this possibility exists for their child. The district does not advertise these “subsidies” because they are concerned there would be too many requests.

So do we have subsidies for our sports academies?  I leave it up to the reader to decide this.

Why is this issue so important to this trustee? Because I believe that our school district should be consistent in providing equal opportunities for students across our district:  we offer French, Spanish, Polish, Ukrainian Immersion, IB and free busing to all these alternative programs.  This is commendable!  But to attend a Sports Academy, students have to pay.  I’m concerned that we are creating a two tiered system by not offering true subsidies/scholarships for those students who may have an aptitude for sports but cannot pay.  I am also very mindful of our Church’s mission which has a preferential option for the poor.  As Catholic schools which share in the Church’s mission to the poor, we need to be cognizant of how we as a district ensure that all our students are welcomed into our alternative programs.  As I said above — we can commend ourselves for providing IB and languages at no extra cost.  My hope through this motion was that all our programs would be accessible to students of all socio- economic backgrounds allowing all our students an equal opportunity to develop their talents and gifts, regardless of their ability to pay.

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