|The Canadian Teachers Federation (CTF) says the increasing use of private money to fund public schools is threatening the public education system across the country.
The CTF recently surveyed schools across the country about fundraising, corporate donations and sponsorships and the amount of advertising that currently exists in schools.
Nationally, 32 per cent of schools reported the presence of advertising in or on their schools, 27 per cent of schools had exclusive marketing arrangements with Pepsi or Coke, and 22 per cent of secondary schools reported that their schools had sold ad space to companies.
When it came to fundraising, 60 per cent of elementary schools reported fundraising for library books, 30 per cent of schools reported collecting labels, coupons or store receipts for a particular product to redeem them for school merchandise, 35 per cent of schools fundraised for technology and 18 per cent for school supplies.
As for user fees, 67 per cent of all schools charged user fees for school trips, 34 per cent for school supplies and 29 per cent for school programs.
The survey criticized provincial governments, including Alberta, for not having established policies or guidelines to address the amount of advertising, corporate influence, user fees and fundraising that is allowed in schools, and for leaving it up to school boards to make decisions.
Alberta Teachers Association president Frank Bruseker says schools are having to turn to private sources of funding because the provincial government isnt providing enough.
"There are lots of schools I know that dont have a math textbook for every kid, they dont have a social studies textbook for every single kid," says Bruseker. "Kids are fundraising in their schools to help raise funds for really basic stuff."
Bruseker says hes concerned about incentive programs through which schools collect labels, coupons or receipts for a particular product that can be redeemed for items needed in the school.
"The end result is it starts to push a particular product," he says. "Its manipulation of kids buy our product. And I think our goal as educators is to help our kids be a little more discerning, a little more critical thinking, and say, "Is this what we really want to do? Buy product X so we can get some money in our school to do something?"
The increased reliance on fundraising and corporate funding in schools can also lead to inequities in the quality of education because some schools are more able to raise funds than others, he adds.
"When we have fundraising, kids that live in more well-off communities are more likely to be successful in fundraising than kids who live in less well-off communities," he says.
He also takes issue with the agreements that schools sign with Coke or Pepsi to market their products.
"Given whats happening on the whole front with obesity
the whole issue of how much sugar do kids really need is starting to get more and more profound," he says. "Why are we doing it? Were doing it because schools make money off of it."
Education Minister Gene Zwozdesky says Albertas School Act only allows schools to fundraise for "non-essentials" if any schools are fundraising for textbooks required as part of the curriculum, he says, "If somebody provides me with those examples, I can tell you that there will be a full and thorough examination of that because that would be against provincial policy."
However, Zwozdesky says he doesnt agree that the province should be providing more funding.
"We are the highest funded K-12 education system anywhere in Canada full stop. Over and above that, you can certainly appreciate that schools might want to fundraise for non-essentials such as field trips or band uniforms or certain athletic uniforms or yearbooks. The question comes down to how much do you really think taxpayers should be covering versus what school boards should be allowed to fundraise for?" he says.