Sask. Children’s advocate finds charter schools failing students

Sask.  Children’s advocate finds charter schools failing students

The Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth is making a series of recommendations to the provincial government to improve oversight in charter schools.

In her report, Lisa Broda made 36 recommendations to the province and the Department of Education to improve charter schools, starting with protecting effective oversight and accountability, empowering students to raise concerns, and ensuring alignment of regulatory policies and monitoring of learning.

Broda announced the investigation into the province’s charter school system last year, after former students at Legacy Christian Academy, formerly known as Saskatoon Christian Center Academy, came forward alleging that staff routinely paddled students and engaged in “controlling and abusive” behavior – Including “gay exorcism.”

More than a dozen former students have filed a class action lawsuit in the Court of King’s Bench seeking $25 million in damages over years of sexual and physical abuse by former teachers and school staff. Four people affiliated with the school have been charged criminally in connection with the allegations.

“It’s great to see the same concerns that we former students brought to former Education Secretary Dustin Duncan last year — this entire report makes all those same points,” said Caitlin Erickson, a former Legacy student.

With Broda’s report substantiating the students’ allegations, criminal charges, and A The previous Board of Grievances report details the inability of ministries to address complaintsErickson wonders what else it would take to strip funding from charter schools.

“It’s really confusing at this point,” she said. “Funding must be frozen immediately.”

“I don’t know how many more this current government will need or how many victims of abuse will be large enough for it to do something because everyone is saying the same thing.”

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Of the six categories of independent schools, only registered independent schools do not receive funding.

In her report, Broda points out some gaps in the education that students were receiving in these schools compared to students in separate or public systems.

Broda noted that in the years when Grade 12 students in these schools were taking mandatory provincial exams, their average grades were 6.4 per cent to 1.2 per cent lower than those of the Saskatchewan population.

In years when grades were determined entirely by the teacher, the average grades of students in unfunded charter schools were 3.4 per cent to 11.3 per cent higher than the total student population in Saskatchewan.

“We heard that there is no way to objectively or systematically assess what children are learning or determine the quality of education provided in these classrooms,” Broda said in her report.

Broda said there is no standard to ensure every charter school teaches the mandatory provincial curriculum.

“We found in at least one school that science was not being taught, and that was an oversight,” Broda said.

In an email to CTV News, the Department of Education expressed its gratitude for Broda’s work.

“The Government of Saskatchewan believes that registered independent schools are an important part of our education sector because they provide choice to parents regarding their children’s education,” the statement read.

“Given the length of the report and the number of recommendations contained within it, a detailed analysis is required before we can provide further comment.”

Broda says the ministry received an advanced copy of the report.

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NDP education critic Matt Love said the province should accept the recommendations rather than the comprehensive report.

“It is not difficult to say: yes, we will ensure respect for human rights in our schools,” Loew said. “That should have been the first response.”

In 2022-2023, there were more than 5,700 students enrolled in 63 registered independent schools across Saskatchewan.

“There is a law that requires all children to go to school,” Broda said. “So, we need to make sure that we have good oversight of what is taught within schools.”

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