The Sweet Seventeen (Part 2)

These elite private schools charge over $10,000 a year in tuition--yet they still get millions of dollars in public funding

There are 182 private schools in Alberta. But only 17 of those are what we describe as “elite” private schools — charging over $10,000 per year in annual tuition. There’s broad public support for defunding private schools in general -- but it’s the “Sweet Seventeen” elites that we should start with.

The reason is simple: regular Albertans shouldn’t have to pay for luxury facilities that are only accessible to the rich. Instead, that public funding — at least $29 million a year — should be invested in the public system: schools, playgrounds, teachers.

With that in mind, you’re probably wondering where these elite schools are. So here's the second half of our two-part look at Alberta's seventeen most expensive private schools.

Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School

Receiving over $24 million between 2010 and 2017, Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School has been one of the chief beneficiaries of public subsidies to private schools. Located on a 220-acre campus near Okotoks, the 631-student K-12 school annually charges between $15,000 and $22,285 per student, as well as a $3,500 non-refundable payment upon entrance.

Earlier this year, the school opened its $24 million expansion, which includes a new elementary school wing and performing arts space. While this addition was completely donor funded, as provincial money can’t be used for capital projects at private schools, it’s a strong reminder of the luxuries that Albertans help subsidize — and the amount of money that could be directed towards public education.

Read our profile of the school here.

Delta West Academy

Delta West Academy is one of the smaller elite private schools, with only 70 students enrolled and an average class size of 10 students. Between 2010 and 2017, the K-12 school — located in Calgary’s northeast community of Bridgeland — received $4 million in provincial funds. Its last filing with the CRA indicated that it receives over $556,000 per year from the government.

Annual tuition ranges from $10,100 for junior kindergarten to $17,900 for high school. There’s also a $4,000 family membership, and a “mandatory” purchase of $400 worth of tickets for the annual Charity Event.

Delta West’s website features a dedicated page to the school’s “active learning furniture,” including “Hokki stools,” PantoMove chairs and standing desks. According to the website, this pricey furniture serves as “cornerstones of DWA learning philosophy.”

Calgary French and International School

As suggested by the name, this 656-student private school in southwest Calgary specializes in French immersion and also has a strong Spanish language program. The school also boasts an incredibly low student-to-teach ratio of 8:1.

It’s located on a 14-acre campus, which includes two playgrounds, a community garden, two gyms, soccer and baseball fields, a dance and yoga studio, two libraries and two cafeterias.

It’s received $23 million from the province between since 2010. Its last charity filing reported $3.7 million in public revenue in a single year. Tuition ranges from $7,490 for half-day preschool and junior kindergarten, all the way up to $14,310 for high school. There’s also a $500 annual registration fee, $4,000 building fund loan and $2,000 new family membership fee.

Lycée Louis Pasteur

This is the other elite French-focused school of the bunch, located in southwest Calgary in the aforementioned private school hotspot. Its website exhorts interested parents to “research the Calgary private school market and you’ll find that Lycée Louis Pasteur is very competitively priced.”

But competitively priced against Calgary’s expensive private school market isn’t cheap — tuition rates fall between $12,700 and $14,600 per year. There’s also a one-time administration fee of $1,000 and one-time bond of $2,500 per student (to a max of $5,000 per family). Families are also required to “volunteer” time or money every year, starting at 12 hours or $200 per year for one child.

The 340-student school took over $10 million in public funding since 2010. At last count, it received $1.7 million in a single year from the government.

Tanbridge Academy

Founded in 2007, this K-9 sport-focused school located southwest of Calgary is on the smaller side with only 108 students. As a result, it has ‘only’ received $1.3 million from the Alberta government since 2010 — last school year saw government funding account for about one-third of the school’s budget, with the other $1.1 million coming from tuition fees.

Sports-focused programs for Grades 4 to 9 include equestrian, hockey, soccer and “recreation for life.” Tuition rates vary depending on sport, up to $16,325 per year for equestrian. Students in that program have two training sessions per week at the school’s equestrian facility.

Tanbridge Academy was co-founded by Ryan Ockey, the president and CEO of Cardel Homes who owns four Lamborghinis and four Ferraris and once sued the Canada Revenue Agency due to multiple audits that resulted in a $219 million tax bill.

Calgary Waldorf School

This private school, located on the edge of northwest Calgary, uses a controversial pedagogical approach inspired by Rudolf Steiner, a 19th century Austrian esoteric philosopher who was recently described by BBC News as “by any modern definition, a racist.” The approach emphasizes largely self-guided interactions with art, music and outdoor activities — with no textbooks or electronics in early grades.

Just under 250 students attend the school. Since 2010, the Alberta government provided has $10 million in public funds to the school. According to its last tax filing, it received $1.3 million from the government.

Depending on the grade level, annual tuition ranges from $5,980 to $11,780 (with fees declining dramatically if a family enrolls a third or fourth child). There’s also a non-refundable $1,500 “initiation” fee per family.

School of Alberta Ballet

As the name suggests, this 85-student private school specializes in high-level ballet training. The school was founded in late 2011 and is based out of Alberta Ballet’s downtown Calgary headquarters. It includes full-time academic and artistic programs for students in Grades 7 to 12, with younger students participating in a part-time dance-only program.

The school received just over $1.4 million since 2010, and charges 7-12 students an annual tuition of $15,700. The federal government funds this school too -- mostly recently having granted $65,000 to support the private school’s arts programming.

Calgary Jewish Academy

This private school, located in southwest Calgary, was founded back in 1987. It teaches just over 250 K-9 students a dual curriculum of Alberta Education and Judaic Studies.

The school’s 2016 CRA filing reported that it received $1.5 million in government spending. Tuition ranges from $5,100 for preschool up to $10,900 for Grades 1 to 9. There’s also a $360 “parent participation” cheque that is returned if the family hasn’t “volunteered” five service hours and a similar $600 “bingo surcharge,” as well as a trip to Israel as part of the Grade 9 curriculum that costs up to $6,500.

The school recently paid out $870,000 to a former principal after his wrongful dismissal, which resulted from a lengthy campaign by the board chair to fire him after an altercation about the paint colour of a hallway.

 

In case you missed it--take a look at Part I of our look at Alberta's most expensive private schools.

If enough of us speak up we can convince the Alberta government to put public funds where they belong. Click here to send a letter to your MLA, the Education Minister, and the Premier of Alberta.