After being effectively shut down by Alberta Education citing inapropriate use of public funding, Trinity Christian School and WISDOM homeschooling aren’t going down without a fight.
“Trinity/WISDOM has retained legal counsel, and is taking legal steps to resolve the situation created by AB Education,” a statement to parents released on October 29th reads. “Many aspects of what has taken place in the past week are profoundly troubling.”
The organization does not believe that they were given a fair chance to respond to the accusations and did not learn of their termination by the government until it was announced to the public. “Those who exercise authority are required to do so in a fair and reasonable manner. When accusations of wrongdoing or misconduct are levied against a person or organization, that person or organization must, according to law, have a fair chance to respond to the accusations, before judgment is rendered and penalties are imposed.”
The school is trying to get some online support with the hasthag #WetstandwithWisdom. WISDOM Homeschooling also believes that many of the accusations lobbied against it by the government are untrue and have provided a point by point rebuttal:
- “The review also uncovered that Wisdom – which is not the grant recipient – had retained $988,000 in unclaimed parent funding over the past three years.”
- Response: Each year, parents are able to access funding by submission of receipts for home education resources. If they do not utilize this funding by the financial deadline it remains in the general revenue of the school. AB Education has claimed that it was inappropriate that WISDOM, rather than Trinity Christian School (“Trinity”), retain these funds. This issue could have been easily resolved if AB Education had communicated with us about this concern; WISDOM is willing and able to transfer those funds to Trinity. But instead, we have learned about AB Education’s concern only in the press. Since WISDOM is Trinity’s home education administration, it is logical that WISDOM managed the unspent funds and used them on home education programming including, but not limited to, Mediated Learning, Dynamic Assessment, parent assistance, Great Books Programs, and special learning needs assistance. According to AB Education, the unspent funds average about $330,000 per year, which is less than $100 per student.
- AB Education has claimed that there has been no accountability for salaries, including those for family members.
- Response: In each annual audit since 1995, the auditor’s notes have addressed “non-arms-length” expenses. These notes have been submitted to the Trinity board, to the WISDOM board, and to AB Education. AB Education tries to suggest that it became aware of these relationships only within the past few years, which is untrue. In fact, these relationships are a strength, not a problem. Home school administration serves families and requires a family-centred attitude to work well. If it were not for the dedication of the many family members and other staff, and their willingness to work long days and weekends, there are many services that Trinity/WISDOM would not have been able to provide.
- AB Education is seeking to emphasize and exaggerate clerical errors, and is withholding relevant information. For example, one person mistakenly claimed mileage reimbursement while also receiving a car allowance. This was not an ongoing issue or practice, but a singular error.
- AB Education cites the misuse of public funds on “Liquor” purchases as a justification for shutting Trinity/WISDOM down. This is a gross mischaracterization of a staff banquet where wine was available.
- AB Education asserts that public funds were wrongfully spent on a funeral. This accusation is false. In fact, the funeral expense was paid out of the WISDOM Widows and Orphans Fund (of funds voluntarily donated by families), not from funds received from AB Education. Donations to the WISDOM Widows and Orphans Fund helped a home schooling family who had no cash flow at the time of the sudden death of the father/husband. The Widows and Orphans Fund has also used gift cards to help families in short term financial trouble.
- AB Education takes exception to some lease agreements.
- Response: The lease most targeted is for the WISDOM office located on Lone Spruce Farm, owned by the Noster family. AB Education neglects to mention that the office was built and upgraded specifically for home education administration. The monthly rate includes utilities, snow removal and grading, an emergency power plant for backup during outages, a comprehensive camera and motion security system, and day and night premises supervision. As a result, there has never been a breach of security. This rental has been recorded by independent auditors every year. AB Education has known of the lease of this building for well over a decade, and never once mentioned that it thought it was a problem or that it wanted it changed.
- AB Education accuses Trinity Christian School of neglecting to adequately supervise home schooling.
- Response: This accusation is false. WISDOM has been Trinity’s home education administrator for 21 years, with the knowledge and consent of AB Education. In fact, in 1997 AB Education mandated the establishment of WISDOM Home Schooling Society. Through its WISDOM office, Trinity has administrated home schooling in an exemplary manner.
- Alberta Education will be providing the findings of its review to both Canada Revenue Agency and the RCMP so those agencies can determine whether further investigation is warranted….
- Response: There has been a transparent financial audit of Trinity/WISDOM every year, and AB Education has conducted many additional audits. Every expenditure, and all in-coming revenues, are meticulously recorded and accounted for.
- Alberta Education also accuses Trinity of not demonstrating sufficient accountability for the supervision of its home-education program or for public funds. It appears that AB Education disagrees with Trinity using WISDOM to manage and facilitate home education services, and characterizes this disagreement as “financial impropriety.”
- Response: Allegations about “lack of financial accountability” and “lack of adequate oversight” are based on the false assumption that Trinity was not entitled to contract with WISDOM to provide home-schooling services. We reiterate that WISDOM was incorporated in obedience to the demand of AB Education, and Alberta Education has known that Trinity operated the home school program through WISDOM for nearly twenty years. This past summer, AB Education once again told Trinity to continue with business as usual, and it was fully aware of WISDOM’s role. In light of the foregoing history and AB Education’s knowledge and instruction to commence the current school year, shutting down Trinity/WISDOM mid-school year is a shocking abuse of official authority. Trinity/WISDOM is carefully considering each of its legal options.