Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Alberta School Boards Tell Parents Truth, While Our Government Obfuscates..

Alberta’s four largest school boards – Edmonton Public and Catholic and their counterparts in Calgary – wrote to all parents last week and laid bare the reality of the claims of the Wildrose Prentice Government to be “protecting front line services” and the quality of education. They are doing no such thing.

With detailed information, the four Boards laid how just how much the Progressive Conservatives have cut per student funding since 2013 – while at the same time, the work of schools has become more complex. These four Boards have the responsibility of managing some of the most complex and growingly large classes in the OECD. In particular, the growth of English language learners, First Nations, Metis and Inuit students and students with special needs as a proportion of the student population has been dramatic. Indeed, these students account for one third of the student body.

Then, the crowning achievement so far of the Wildrose Prentice Government is to build schools without providing for teachers to staff them. This genius idea, akin to building swimming pools without water to fill them or forests without trees, means that the 47 new schools which these Boards will start to be responsible for as they come on stream will each represent a further dilution of resources for the system as a whole. Think about it – staffing growth reduces available resources for all unless additional resources are made available. This government has in fact significantly reduced funding to support the work of teaching.

All this could be avoided by a sensible, equitable approach to taxation and to education. Indeed, if equity was a policy driver, then the kind of double-speak and empty policies being pursued by this Government would look very different (see why here and look at my video here).

The Minister argues that Boards face dramatic choices – they need to rethink how they provide education. This is what Boards actually do all the time and they were in the process of doing so in partnership with their teachers and the Government of Alberta until the latter changed course and went “off planet”.

Alberta has one of the few truly great education systems in the English speaking world. We earned our position the hard way – through serious-minded sense-making by teachers, Principals, trustees and Government working together. All of this work is based on trust. This trust is broken by the actions of this Government and the trust becomes more difficult to restore given the non-sense rhetoric the Government is now using.

Well done the Metro Board chairs for calling-out the double-speak of our Government. Shame of you Government for creating the situation in which they had to.

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