Salience of Charter Schools in Educational Policy Debates in Three Canadian Provinces: 1993-2010
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School choice-the movement towards increased parental and student control over public education-has been endorsed extensively as a means of revitalizing and improving public schools. Part of this movement is the concept of charter schools, which have expanded rapidly in the United States and around the globe. In stark contrast, Canadians have remained relatively content with current educational arrangements; only 13 charter schools currently exist in Canada, all in the province of Alberta. This study sought to identify why charter schools have failed to situate themselves in Canadian education. The study used an agenda setting framework to determine the salience of charter schools as a public issue in three provinces: Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. Results largely indicate that over the past 18 years, charter schools have gradually declined as a salient issue. Additional discussion concerning the unique characteristics of Canadian education highlights factors that appear to discourage the expansion of such schools. However, although charter schools do not appear to be a current issue for Canadians, they may still emerge in the future, as parents and teachers continue to seek new ways of improving educational outcomes. Thus, although the impact of charter schools on public education has been minimal to date, they provide an illuminating lens towards better understanding educational reform and policy, as well as the fundamental values that shape education in Canada.