We all pay

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So depending on your political stripe, Alberta Minister of Education David Eggen’s March 2 announcement to eliminate 25 per cent of school fees and examine the possible elimination of fees for technology, school lunch supervision and field trips, can be seen as a desperate act to recoup disgruntled voters, or a continuation of the NDP’s pledge to help families.

And although it’s great fodder for editorial writers, the notion of abolishing school fees is little more than a shell game.

Granted, you’re not going to get any complaints from big families as August has always been a tough month for the pocketbooks of parents.

Sports like hockey ramp up in the fall meaning new skates and hockey equipment for little Johnny … and if you’ve bought a new skates, or a composite hockey stick lately, you’ll know they aren’t cheap. Compounding it of course will be when Johnny’s feet grow two sizes by December, or when he breaks the $200 stick playing street hockey.

Keeping kids active is great, but as any parent can attest to, it’s also expensive.

And we can’t forget new school clothes. If you’re outfitting multiple kids, especially fashion-conscious teens who will not accept anything less than a $200 pair of sneakers, the bill can be astronomical.

If passed, Bill 1: An Act to Reduce School Fees will end fees for instructional supplies, or materials and fees for students bussing to their designated school. Alberta Education says those two make up about 25 per cent of school fees, so eliminating them will save families about $54 million, while in the case of Pembina Hills the number is around $388,000.

So that’s great news — the province says about 590,000 students will see their instructional fees eliminated and 140,000 will no longer pay to ride a bus.

The question is how are those dollars going to be replaced? Well, the answer is simple as in our estimation taxpayers will foot the bill.

Free education, along with health care, are two of the pillars upon which our society is built. It was always a bit of headscratcher to hear the claim that education is free, then to issue parents a bill.

And although it won’t be popular with taxpayers whose kids have flown the coup, eliminating a least a portion of school fees is long overdue.

Yes, we’ll all probably pay a little more on tax bills, but that’s a small price to pay to say we have an “almost free” education system.

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