Alberta Budget 2018 Celebrating the Status Quo

In today’s budget announcement the Alberta Government announced  8.4 billion dollars in education funding, keeping their commitment to fund for growth.  This budget is up from 8.2 billion dollars from last year. Funding enrolment growth 2.2% (approx 15, 000 students) but this does not fund for inflation and only covers the instructional cost.

Also announced today was the construction and maintenance of 20 new or modernized schools building through the capital plan, funding for which comes through Infrastructure.

There are no real surprises in todays budget. This government, prior to the 2015 election committed to fund for growth when the previous government had identified education funding cuts.  That news was welcomed then, and while funding for growth is important, Support Our Students Alberta has been waiting for a larger vision and commitment to public education from this government.

The reality remains for many Alberta students, of over crowded classrooms, crumbling infrastructure, under resourced libraries and staff, long bus rides and inequities cause by fundraising required to fill funding gaps.

We can no longer be satisfied with maintaining  the status quo.  This will be this governments last budget before the provincial election.  Next year, Albertans will be voting largely based on what visions are presented to them. Support Our Students Alberta is still waiting for a vision that recommits to public education.

We are waiting for a budget:

  • That focusses public dollars on public schools – Alberta government diverts approx: $260, 000, 000 to private schools.
  • That eliminates barriers such as fees and application procedures for public schools – Strengthen the regulations around Bill 1 an Act to Reduce School Fees, so that access to education programs is equitable and not based on other factors such as socio economic.
  • That fills funding gaps all too often by user fees. – For example transportation fees and needs vary widely across the province and the funding model needs to reflect the differences in the needs between rural boards and urban boards.
  • Creates a framework matrix for superintendent salaries – Similar to other jurisdictions.
  • Collaborates with other ministries (Alberta Health Services & Children’s Services) to meet the growing health needs of children in schools. – Mental health of youth in Alberta is a huge priority and concern for all involved

We will continue to advocate for a full review of the current funding model so that schools no longer need to compete for students to pad their budgets.

We will be watching and listening  very closely over the next year to the promises made in the hopes of winning your votes.  We hope Albertans will demand more than consistent funding, but instead call for the kind of funding that can support and promote an equitable and accessible public education for all Alberta students.

School Board Trustee Check-In

 

It’s been almost 5 months since the Alberta municipal elections, where we elected people to the position of school board trustee across the province.

At this point, trustees have had to disclose all their campaign funding (for Calgary: http://www.calgary.ca/election/Pages/information-for-voters/campaign_disclosures.aspx) , they have had time to get started on some of their campaign promises, and should start to feel at home in the role representing their communities and constituents.

It’s a great time to look at how our elected officials are performing in their new roles, as school board trustees.

  • Have they been attending board/trustee/committee meetings?
  • Have they been engaging with their constituents and community?
  • Have they been attending school council meetings?
  • Have they been participating in board wide initiatives?
  • Have they made any progress on campaign promises?
  • Are they regularly showing up to meetings?
  • Are they easy to reach and communicate with?
  • Are they sharing accurate and relevant board information?

We understand the role of school board trustee in Alberta is a part-time position. We are very pleased to see so many trustees dedicate a lot of time and effort to the role while other’s efforts to fulfill their obligations are lacking.

We are asking our followers, as engaged citizens across Alberta, to look back on the past six months and decide if the promises candidates made during their campaigns are materializing into actions as trustees.

We applaud and recognize the many trustees that have done an excellent job of engaging with their constituents, responding to emails and phone calls, attending school council meetings, showing up to school events, and even publicly standing up in defense of public education funding (We’re looking and applauding you @TrishaEstabrooks!).

However, in some instances it is a challenge to engage and connect with trustees. For example it has come to our attention that residents of Wards 12 and 14 in Calgary are struggling to engage with their CBE trustee Mike Bradshaw. Their emails and calls go unanswered. Meetings go unattended. Election promises unmet. We recognize that family or work obligations can impact a trustee and that there are often extenuating circumstances why someone is not engaging but constituents deserve to have representation as board work proceeds throughout the year.

It’s because of these kinds of concerns we thought it was a good time for citizens across Alberta, to reflect on how their respective trustees are engaging, behaving and representing their constituents.

It’s time to ask questions, it’s time to expect answers.

Democracy is most effective when we engage continuously, including between elections, holding our representatives to account.

Is your trustee engaged, or deadbeat?

Comment below on your experiences.