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Sask. public teachers want government to stop funding for private schools

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The Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) is raising a red flag about how much taxpayer money is being spent on private schools — including schools facing allegations of abuse.

The Government of Saskatchewan is spending $11.7 million on 20 private schools this year — a 25 per cent increase from last year.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan's 27 public school divisions are receiving $2 billion — a 2.5 per cent increase from last year.

“It's not right,” Samantha Becotte, president of the STF, told CTV News.

“I don't believe that our government should be funding anything towards our private schools. They receive tuition from students.”

Becotte said funding private schools “dilutes” and “erodes” the public system.

“The government’s responsibility is to ensure the public education system is well-funded, well-supported and is a high-quality system that's available for every student across this province,” Becotte said.

Private schools in Saskatchewan that are classified as “qualified independent schools” receive funding of 50 per cent of the provincial per student average.

“The increase from last year to this year on qualified independent schools is because we went from 18 to 20 schools,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan told reporters at the Saskatchewan Legislature on Tuesday.

The private school spending came to light after the Saskatchewan NDP requested a document looking into three qualified independent schools: Legacy Christian Academy, Grace Christian School and Regent Christian Academy.

The document outlined recommendations from an independent administrator who was hired to oversee operations of the three private Christian schools — following allegations of abuse from former students.

“What came back was a heavily redacted document in which all of the recommendations were redacted,” NDP Education critic Matt Love, told CTV News.

Love highlighted some uncensored details in the report, including a school hiring family members to work as staff, people acting as teachers without being accredited educators, and turning away students with complex learning needs.

Caitlin Erickson, who was a student at Legacy Christian Academy (formerly known as Christian Centre Academy), is urging the government to be transparent about the operations of the private Christian schools it funds.

“This is taxpayer money. So, it’s really important for taxpayers to be able to see where their money's going and what's going on in the schools,” Erickson said.

Erickson said she’s witnessed private Christian schools in Saskatchewan promote certain politics.

“Students campaign for the Sask. Party. They campaign for conservative leaders. That was just the culture there,” Erickson said.

Erickson, along with dozens of other students, have filed a $25 million lawsuit against officials of the former Christian Centre Academy.

The school’s athletic director, Aaron Benneweis, is charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation.

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