From Alternative Schools to School Choice in the Vancouver School District, 1960s to the Neoliberal Present
This article examines the transformation over time of alternative secondary school programs in Vancou- ver, British Columbia (BC). It approaches school choice from a historical standpoint, to make the point that today’s choice policies are neither entirely recent nor entirely neoliberal in origin. Instead, they are built on past precedent and policy flowing from the right and left of the spectrum. The article traces the alternative schools that first emerged in the 1960s, and the Vancouver school board’s subsequent absorption of them to offer new, alternative programs beyond its regular secondary school curriculum. Vancouver’s alternative secondary programs were soon organized into two distinctive types: (1) remedial rehabilitative alternatives, and (2) selective district specified alternatives. New policy, institutional changes, and philosophical changes in the education sector allowed both types of alternatives to exist, but over time encouraged district specified alternatives to thrive. The provincial School Amendment Act of 2002 represented a watershed for choice as we know it today. It opened attendance boundaries across BC and gave districts the tools to generate their own revenues. Freezing the per-pupil funding it provided to districts at the same time, the provincial government induced districts to compete with one another to recruit students domestically and internationally in order to secure revenue. District specified programs in Vancouver became a key to the district’s competitive ability. By elucidating some of this history of different alternative and choice programs, at the secondary level in Vancouver, this article adds considerable perspective to the current theoretical discussion about how neoliberal philosophy is changing choice in Canadian schools.
Copyright (c) 2019 Jason Ellis, Ee-Seul Yoon
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
a. Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
b. Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
c. Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work.