Special Event: Movie Screening “A Backpack Full of Cash”

In 2017 we presented the Canadian Premiere of the acclaimed documentary, Backpack Full of Cash. We held four screenings of the film  across Alberta and we are pleased to be bringing it back in 2019.

We think the timing is right to educate and inform as many people as possible about the dangers of charter schools and the perils of privatization. We know lifting the charter school cap and amending their regulations will adversely affect public education. At the same time, charter schools in Alberta are very poorly understood. This is a great opportunity to share some critical messaging. 

Date And Time
Sat, 7 September 2019
7:00 PM – 9:30 PM MDT

Patricia A. Whelan Performance Hall
Central Library, Calgary Public Library
800 3 Street SE
Calgary, Alberta T2G 2E7


Education Issues Handbook 2019

Education Issues Handbook

The 2019 Provincial election is in full swing and we at SOSAB often hear from citizens who are unsure of what to ask their local candidates about education issues. And as we did during the 2017 Municipal Election we have created an Education Issues Handbook, compiling the major issues we have heard from citizens and from our own research as public education advocates. It is a dynamic document that citizens can use to start conversations with their local MLA candidates about public education. We would like to offer the space of our website for these conversations.

We are encouraging people to share the Handbook widely with friends and family, print it off and have it ready at the door for when candidates come knocking or take it with them to a candidate event.

Most importantly we would like people to add their own questions or perspectives. Every region in the province has a unique set of issues when it comes to public education and we would really like Albertans to share back with us and in turn share with other Albertans their thoughts or questions about what they think is important to Albertans when it comes to public education.

Alberta Education: The Predictable Path to Privatization

While Alberta’s education system has unique traits, it is following a non-unique predictable path towards privatization, one that is being employed around the world. In this presentation from the 2018 Parkland Institute Conference we explore the current system, how the marketization of it is not unique and is entirely predictable, why this privatization strategy has been so successful and inconspicuous, and what we can do to return to true universality.

Own The Classroom

Class size is an issue that is an ongoing concern for  us, in fact it was one of the first issues we organized around. Unfortunately, it is an issue that is still looking for leadership and solutions. We’ve written a letter to the Minister of Education proposing a targeted strategy in the spirit of the Own the Podium initiative. 

November 21, 2018

Dear Honorable Minister of Education;

RE:  Class Size Initiative

As you know, Support Our Students Alberta is a non-profit, volunteer run, public education advocacy organization. We formed in early 2015 around front line education issues like class sizes, transportation and under resourcing of schools.

The issues we formed around still exist today. One of the larger unaffected issues around education is large class sizes. As you are aware, no Alberta government has been able to affect positive change towards meeting the Alberta Commission on Learning recommendations of 2003.

The ACOL recommendations are as follows:

K-3 Recommended class size 17

4-6 Recommended class size 23

7-9 Recommended class size  25

10-12 Recommended class size 27

As you know we are nowhere near meeting these targets for Alberta students. As you are also aware, 3.3 billion dollars has been invested in class size initiatives, with no tangible success.

As a result, Support Our Students Alberta is suggesting the Alberta government implement initiatives that have proven successful in setting and meeting targets.  

In 2004 in an attempt to improve Canada’s performance in winter Olympics a non-profit organization was formed to improve our nations results in the games. The result was a multidisciplinary organization, that set timelines and targets. Own the Podium has been by most measures wildly successful in identifying a need, and then working towards meeting goals.

SOS Alberta feels strongly that money, like the 3.3 billion dollars already put towards class size initiatives would be better served if it followed the Own The Podium model.

A multidisciplinary, and multi-level initiative that includes the Government of Alberta, school boards, municipalities, public education advocates (like SOS), the ATA, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Child Services to create timed targets (school builds, staff hires and progressive targets for class sizes) following the existing Own The Podium model would best serve this long standing issue.

If the province and nation can make and meet emissions targets and Olympic targets, we should be able to do the same for classroom targets. #OwnTheClassroom

We would love to meet with you, Honourable Minister David Eggen to further discuss this possibility at your earliest convenience.  

Many kind thanks,

Carolyn Blasetti, Executive Director SOS

Barbara Silva, Communications Director SOS


Further Reading — The Predictable Path To Privatization

We recently presented at the 2018 Parkland Institute Institute Conference our presentation,  Alberta Education: The Predictable Path to Privatization challenges Albertan’s to rethink the current state of public education in Alberta. Over the past 3.5 years we had the privilege of investigating  Alberta’s education system and investigating education systems around the globe. Alberta’s current system has not developed in a vacuum, in fact Alberta has been the leader in Canada in the privatization of our education system following the lead of many other nations on a very predictable path. We’ve collected here just some of the articles, literature that we have used to understand the forces that drive the privatization of education systems.

Public vs Private Schools

Des parallèles à tracer autour de l’école entre la France et le Québec

How are America’s public schools really doing?

Does Attendance in Private Schools Predict Student Outcomes at Age 15? Evidence from a Longitudinal Study

Are private schools better than public schools? Perception versus reality

Public schools losing out in political power plays

Extra $4 billion funding allows struggling private school to finally build 3rd swimming pool | The Chaser

‘End education snobbery. There’s no out-of-work brickie or sparkie’ | Education | The Guardian

Are Private Schools Better than Public Schools? – IPE/BC

Community Schools Playbook

Private school edge has more to do with advantages the students bring.

The only way to end the class divide: the case for abolishing private schools | News | The Guardian

Does Attendance in Private Schools Predict Student Outcomes at Age 15? Evidence From a Longitudinal Study – Robert C. Pianta, Arya Ansari, 2018

No, private schools aren’t better at educating kids than public schools. Why this new study matters. – The Washington Post

Schools in rich areas are more than twice as likely to be ‘outstanding’

Private school funding increase irks associations | Vue Weekly

Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?

Voters Widely Support Public Schools. So Why Is It So Hard to Pay for Them?

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins


Public school proponents push for budget cut to Alberta private schools | Edmonton Journal

Public school board lobbies for government to phase out private school funding

Funding Review Won’t Include Amount of Money, Private Schools | The Tyee

Are Private Schools Immoral?

Revealed: The hidden cost of free schools

Losing Students, Private Schools Try to Change – WSJ

Global Education Reform: How Privatization and Public Investment Influence Education Outcomes

Academic Outcomes of Public and Private High School Students: What Lies Behind the Differences?

Do traditional public schools benefit from charter competition? – The Washington Post

NAACP sticks by its call for charter school moratorium, says they are ‘not a substitute’ for traditional public schools

Civics, Community, and Allyship: Why We Chose Our Local Public School – IntegratedSchools.org

Voucher Program Helps Well-Off Vermonters Pay for Prep School at Public Expense – ProPublica

Campaign to defund private schools backed by NDP: Kenney

Public Schools Aren’t Failing Us. We’re Failing Our Schools (And Our Kids).

The Impact of Charters on Neighborhood Schools – Simply Told – Network For Public Education

Worldwide, School Choice Hasn’t Improved Performance



Talking Across The Pond About Ed Reform 2.0

When Communities Lose Their Public Schools For Good, What Happens To The Students? Michigan May Soon Find Out.

Bezos to launch network of preschools: ‘The child will be the customer’

A Layperson’s Guide to the ‘Destroy Public Education’ Movement

Analysis | What and who are fueling the movement to privatize public education — and why you should care

How ‘segrenomics’ underpins the movement to privatize public education – The Washington Post

CURMUDGUCATION: Progressives and the DeVosian Embrace

Commericalising education: profiting from reform!: Journal of Education Policy: Vol 33, No 5

Winning Battles on Education – Progressive.org

Philip Pullman attacks ‘monstrous’ English education policy | Books | The Guardian

Charter school founded by Southwest Key wants to educate immigrant kids housed at the nonprofit’s shelters | Education | Dallas News

Privatization Report Card – Network For Public Education

How Money Matters for Schools

Think-tank calls for increased private school enrolment in Alberta

Greg Thompson | EduResearch Matters The Creeping Commercialisation of Public Schools

Patti Bacchus: Will we ever stop funding private schools? | Georgia Straight Vancouver’s News & Entertainment Weekly

Dan Cohen: The spread of education reform models

Danielle Smith: Maybe we need to defund public schools | Globalnews.ca

Should the Government of Alberta be funding private schools? | Foothills School Division

Editorial: Private schools save money

When schools look like resorts questions about funding must be asked

What school has $42 million in the bank but still gets $5 million a year in public subsidies? Webber Academy

Trimble: Public schools need to get their own system in order | Calgary Herald

Time to start ‘phasing out’ funding for private schools, says trustee on Edmonton public board

Private School Tax Deductions and Credits

MacLeod and Clemens: Increased funding for independent schools is unlikely to improve education

Tran-Davies: Education minister needs to do his homework on failing math policies | Calgary Herald

Opinion: Failure to properly teach math disenfranchises at-risk youth – Vancouver Sun

How Jeb Bush’s Florida Plan for School ‘Choice’ Created an Industry of Corruption and Chaos | Alternet

Inside Silicon Valley’s Big-Money Push to Remake American Education – Mother Jones

Elizabeth Farrelly: Why private schools should be banned

The Expansion of McTutor World: What’s Diving the Private Tutoring Explosion?

How Silicon Valley Plans to Conquer the Classroom

How closing public schools undermines democracy – Salon.com

The “Polite Revolution”: What Can Canadian Educators Learn from researchED?

Betsy DeVos Thinks Schools Are Like Food Trucks. Seriously. Read What She Said. – Mother Jones

http://www.erpjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/ERPV35-2_MacKay-B.-Firmin-M.-2008.-The-historical-development-of-private-education in Alberta

School Vouchers: Transubstantiate Your Cash For Fun and Profit | gadflyonthewallblog

The Privatization Prophets

Head to the school gate – and see how politics is failing our children | Gaby Hinsliff | Opinion | The Guardian

Parents turning to tutors as class sizes swell – Calgary – CBC News

School fees a Klein legacy | Vue Weekly

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Neoliberalism and the Non-Profit Social Services Sector in Alberta

Editorial: Public funding of private schools is a smart policy

Schooling, privatisation and post-truth politics | Unite for Quality Education

School Choice



Building Charter School Identity | Research @ Werklund

When ‘School Choice’ Means the Opposite




The best choice for your child’s school is most likely the local school

Ottewell Junior High students lobby minister, school trustees for more high schools


Opinion: The myth of school choice

United Conservative Party Defend School Choice

School Choice is a Lie. It Does Not Mean More Options. It Means Less. | gadflyonthewallblog


Episode 67: Charter Schools and Progressive Values: A Lesson for Democrats | BustED Pencils


Independent religious schools, parents challenge gay-straight alliance bill – Edmonton Journal

Many parents face disappointment over primary school places | Education | The Guardian

What’s your Grade 9 plan? Students, educators wrestle over streaming | Windsor Star

Parents brave cold for limited spots at Royal Vale School – Montreal – CBC News

“National School Choice Week” Gives You No Choice At All – Progressive.org

Expanding High-Quality Educational Options for All Students: How States Can Create a System of Schools Worth Choosing

School’s out: What happens to a community when students leave their neighbourhood schools?

http://www.taapcs.ca/pdf/The%20Politics%20of%20Educational%20Reform_Bosetti%20&%20Butterfield.pdf The Politics Of Educational Reform: The Alberta Charter School Experiment 20 Years Later

A broad spectrum of choices

The Troubled History of School Choice – AAIHS

Russ on Reading: School Choice: An Ugly Idea

Evidence Mounts That School Choice Isn’t Delivering Promised Results, Not That K-12 Privateers Are Listening | Alternet

Three big problems with school ‘choice’ that supporters don’t like to talk about

The Broken Promises of Choice in New York City Schools – NYTimes.com

The masquerade of school choice: a parent’s story

Trump seeks to slash Education Department but make big push for school choice

Teacher: What school ‘choice’ looks like from my classroom

Private school pupils are having to take ’empathy lessons’ because they don’t understand the world

Sweden school choice: The country’s disastrous experiment with Milton Friedman and vouchers.

Four new science programs proposed amid growing demand for STEM education | Calgary Herald


UBC Press | The Equity Myth – Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities By Frances Henry By Enakshi Dua By Carl E. James By Audrey Kobayashi By Peter Li By Howard Ramos By Malinda S. Smith

Does Teacher Diversity Matter in Student Learning?

One of the Best Ways to Protect LGBTQ Students Might Be Fighting for School Choice

Jason Kenney Headlined an Education Conference Sponsored By Homophobic and Creationist Fringe Groups

Rural Alberta schools need further supports – Ponoka News

What Does “Revolution” Look Like in Education? – Progressive.org

Community Schools: A Powerful Strategy to Disrupt Inequitable Systems

Canada’s children have high rates of suicide, abuse, infant mortality: report | CBC News

NAIS – The Influence of Affluence

Study: Poor Kids Who Believe in Meritocracy Suffer – The Atlantic

Why the principal in the viral video of Upper West Side integration debate believes in school diversity

Program Overlap Matrix

Research: Grammar schools do not do better and should be scrapped

Cooking classes connect families, community at Brandon’s Betty Gibson School – Manitoba – CBC News

Opinion | The Misguided Drive to Measure ‘Learning Outcomes’ – The New York Times

Stuck in the past: the UK needs to produce creative thinkers not exam-passing machines

Eastglen tracks its students to steer them to graduation

‘Drill and kill’? English schools turn to scripted lessons to raise standards

Passive Oppression in Education: Fueling the Achievement Gap

Disengaged by Design: The Neoconservative War on Youth – Long View on Education

The Testing Charade | Ed Magazine

The Psychology of Inequality | The New Yorker

The clues that could explain our falling PISA marks

The Children Must Play

The Inequity of the Traditional Grading System – Aaron Daffern

‘Working-class children get less of everything in education – including respect’ | Education | The Guardian

https://www.teachers.ab.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/ATA/Publications/Research/COOR-101-3%20Renewing%20Albertas%20Promise.pdf A Great School For All

Public Education ‘School Fees’: A Look at What Parents Are Paying Across Canada | The Tyee

Results drive in schools damaging pupils’ mental health | News

Why School Sucks (hint: it’s not because it’s “boring”)

Here’s an Idea: Guarantee Every Child an Excellent Education – gadflyonthewallblog

Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement

Why Care About Other People’s Children | gadflyonthewallblog

The Great Hope: Kindergarten and Community – Katie Mgongolwa

https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/32507/1/Pistiolis_Ioanna_V_201206_MA_thesis.pdfThe Results and Implications of Fundraising in Elementary Public Schools: Interviews with Ontario Principals

Forget chocolate bars – companies pitch new fundraising schemes to schools

Rural Ontario school closings hit communities hard  | Toronto Star

‘There’s got to be a better way’: bus funding model makes rural schools inaccessible

School Choice & Segregation

Charlottesville’s Other Jim Crow Legacy: Separate and Unequal Education

Writer Nikole Hannah-Jones issues a challenge to parents in Philadelphia and beyond | The notebook

Georgia’s Separate and Unequal Special-Education System

White progressive parents and the conundrum of privilege

Toronto is segregated by race and income. And the numbers are ugly | The Star

La ségrégation scolaire au secondaire, une dérive largement ignorée | Le Devoir

A school divided: What French immersion has done to Suddaby | KitchenerPost.ca

How French immersion has created a two-tier education system | TheRecord.com

Opinion | How Entitled Parents Hurt Schools – The New York Times

Episode 8 – Gentrification, Segregation, and Education – a deLayed teacher

Black students in Toronto streamed into courses below their ability, report finds | CBC News

Elite Schools Make Few Offers to Black and Latino Students

The Broken Promises of Choice in New York City Schools

Mandarin bilingual program expands to south Calgary middle school – Calgary – CBC News

Ontario school data shed light on effects of math-class divisions – The Globe and Mail

In push for funding, Ontario’s Catholic school boards enrolling more non-Catholics – The Globe and Mail

Just say ‘non’: The problem with French immersion – Macleans.ca

Le Devoir | Nouvelles, actualités, politique, culture et chroniques

Kindergarten registration could see some students facing lotteries to access school of choice | Calgary Herald

Proposed tests for reception children ‘verging on the immoral’ | Education | The Guardian

Badass Teachers Association: The Different Flavors of School Segregation by Steven Singer

Opinion: Most Albertans see benefit of public funding for religious schools – Edmonton Journal

Setting up a Skills Academy

Millions of extra dollars go to Indianapolis magnet schools that have fewer poor students | Chalkbeat

Toronto school board’s draft proposal to ‘reform’ gifted program has parents worried

Toronto school board mulls end to specialized schools in order to reduce learning disparities – The Globe and Mail

How Does School Choice Impact Our Neighbourhood Schools? – The Wejr Board

Educational opportunity in Australia 2015 – Mitchell Institute

Australian education fails one in four young people – but not the wealthy ones

Advocates devastated with province’s rejection of new school for students with learning disabilities | Calgary Herald

More Choice, Less Education – Alberta Views – The Magazine for Engaged Citizens

The Department of Justice Is Overseeing the Resegregation of American Schools | The Nation

Education by the Numbers – NYTimes.com

‘The Way to Survive It Was to Make A’s’ – NYTimes.com

Who Benefits From the Expansion of A.P. Classes? – NYTimes.com

Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost. – NYTimes.com

The Resegregation of Jefferson County – NYTimes.com

‘I wasn’t comfortable’: Being a student of color in Garfield High’s advanced classes | KUOW News and Information

Hothoused and hyper-racialised: the ethnic imbalance in our selective schools | Christina Ho | Opinion | The Guardian

The real reason we send our kids to French Immersion

The Problem With French Immersion – Looking UpLooking Up

Where Did All The Integrated Schools Go? Why Segregation is Still Bad | gadflyonthewallblog

Graphic Essay: Betsy DeVos’ ‘School Choice’ Movement Isn’t Social Justice. It’s a Return to Segregation.

School choice is a scam in segregated neighborhoods | Chicago Reporter

School Choice: Politics of Opportunity and Identity

Toronto’s art school students mostly white, from high-income families, study finds | Toronto Star

How Rich Parents Can Exacerbate School Inequality

As Fewer Kids Attend Neighborhood Schools, Transportation Challenges Intensify

BridgeBetsy DeVos and the segregation of school choice

Mapping ‘White Flight’ Into Charter Schools

NLPS expresses concerns regarding education choices in rural Alberta

Truth: Why vouchers and school choice were created

Grammar schools offer ‘pitifully few’ places to poorer children

Class divide: As French immersion booms, English classrooms shrink

Education Apartheid

Recipe for education apartheid

Educational apartheid is Scotland’s greatest national disgrace | Coffee House

Is Spain sleepwalking into educational apartheid? | World news | The Guardian


Voters send 7 new trustees to a York School Board grappling with racism

Racism in schools is not pass or fail | The Star

‘Diversity of Thought’ is not the problem – Long View on Education

Teachers’ implicit bias against black students starts in preschool, study finds | World news | The Guardian

Eugenics and the Modern Conservative Movement – AAIHS

Toby Young: what is ‘progressive eugenics’ and what does it have to do with meritocracy?

US charter schools put growing numbers in racial isolation

‘Haven’t changed a thing:’ Private school much the same despite prayer appeal

Opinion: Webber Academy case about discrimination, not secularism

Black students hindered by academic streaming, suspensions: Report | Toronto Star

Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s education chief, is living proof white people haven’t gotten over Brown v. Board of Education


#52: Teachers are Running for Office – And to Save Public Education by Have You Heard

Alberta Liberal Leader David Khan challenges NDP education record

Greetings from the Minister of Education, the Honourable David Eggen

The Funding of Independent Schools in Alberta

How to Sustain Community Schools − The Partnership for the Future of Learning Publishes New How-To Guide

Building an Education System that Works for Everyone: Funding Reforms to Help All Our Children Thrive – MassBudget

School Board Courage – Long View on Education

United Conservative Party Constitutional Document 2 – Member Policy Declaration – V2.0 (Member Proposal Consolidation)

http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/themes/5532a70aebad640927000001/attachments/original/1429634829/Alberta_NDP_Platform_2015.pdf?1429634829 Alberta NDP 2015 Election Platform

Province urged to overhaul ‘flawed’ approach to funding education | Toronto Star

Follow the Money – Political Donations Database | National Post

Allison Hanes: Quebec Education minister’s vision of the future is refreshing | Montreal Gazette

New Zealand: Government announces end of charter schools

Public education: a right that the Portuguese will fight to defend | Unite for Quality Education

Silva and Blasetti: NDP needs to review how it funds schools

Answers for David Seymour

Finland thinks it has designed the perfect school. This is what it looks like | World Economic Forum

Metro News Nova Scotia School Board Disbanding

Province working with local school districts to build community hubs at future school sites | Calgary Herald

https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2017/12/Blasetti%3ASilva.pdf -Recommitting to Public Education, Silva&Blasetti

Eva Moskowitz’s Plan for Education – The Atlantic

How Education Reform Ate the Democratic Party | Jennifer C. Berkshire

Paradoxes of the Finland Phenomenon

NCEE | Finland: System and School Organization

Union City Public Schools

Rethinking Equity – Creating a Great School for All

The Politics of Educational Reform in Alberta

Educational Reform: Failing the Grade – Alberta Views – The Magazine for Engaged Citizens

Books or Band? – Alberta Views – The Magazine for Engaged Citizens

Overhauling Everything Schools Teach Kids – Alberta Views – The Magazine for Engaged Citizens

What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success – The Atlantic

Rethinking Schools in the DeVos Era – Open Source with Christopher Lydon

Seriously Mom: Alberta’s tone deaf Bill 1 a.k.a. Ignoring the Elephants

To Advance Education, We Must First Reimagine Society | MindShift | KQED News

The Problem With Public Schools Isn’t Low Test Scores. It’s Strategic Disinvestment.

Budget Austerity Treats Public-School Parents Like Criminals | OurFuture.org

Thoughts on the election and education, French immersion spaces, a little yellow school house, and bans – Page 2 | Vancouver Observer – Page 1

https://populardemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Roosevelt-Community-Schools-Profile_Web%20(1).pdf Community Schools Problem Solvers

Unwrapping Charter School Titles: Where’s the Innovation?

Fundraising leads to growing inequity among Alberta schools: report

School fees in Alberta triple in five years – Calgary Herald

Municipal Affairs: Education Property Tax – Facts and Information 2018

What Conservatives Get Wrong about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

School Governance in Crisis: Who is Left to Hold School Authorities Accountable?

How Finland broke every rule — and created a top school system – The Hechinger Report

Guest Blog: School Fundraising in Alberta, Moving Beyond the Thunderdome

I was seven when the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome opened in theatres. I was too young to see the PG-13 flick but throughout my childhood, it was part of pop culture. Tina Turner was a bad ass and it was the days before Mel Gibson made questionable choices.

 Thunderdome is much like the state of school fundraising in Alberta today.

Every time a school completes a grant application or sends home another request for students to sell something, it feels like a silent crowd is chanting, “Two men enter, one man leaves”. Like Thunderdome, there is one winner and many losers, and the competition is fierce.

The competition for grant funding is fierce. Some grants receive hundreds of applications and only have funding for one or two recipients across Canada. More and more, grants are moving toward a most-votes-wins style that is more like a popularity contest than a measure of most needed. I can’t blame the organizations that structure grants this way – they also have limited resources and it is only natural to want to see a return on investment in the form of clicks to their website.

The competition for parent dollars is fierce. If you have children in more than one school or involved in extra-curricular activities, expect a constant stream of fundraisers coming home in the backpack. Buckle your seatbelt – you will never again worry about how to renew your magazine subscriptions, what book of coupons is the best or where to buy wrapping paper. You will have a continuous supply of bacon, steaks and cookie dough in your freezer. And your social calendar will be dotted with casinos, silent auctions and bottle drives. Every holiday will have options of flowers or chocolates and occasionally, you will even get an invitation to a cheque writing party.

The competition for corporate sponsorship support is fierce. With many non-profits looking to supplement donors that have dried up during the downturn of the economy, companies large and small are receiving more and more requests. Corporations must choose between supporting local projects (like school playgrounds), Calgary-wide initiatives (like the United Way) or national campaigns (like the Canadian Red Cross). All while balancing their own books during an economic recovery.

Although the competition is fierce and can feel like a fundraising Thunderdome, it is only open to those with the ability to compete. There are many schools where volunteers are scarce, and money is limited. There are just not enough hours in a day or bodies around the table to apply for grants, organize fundraising events or approach sponsors. These groups are almost always the loser in the fundraising Thunderdome.

Ultimately, the fundraising Thunderdome has an impact on students. The focus has shifted from raising a bit of money to support field trips and “extras” that enhance learning, to raising a lot of money to support basic needs like playgrounds. School councils dread the words, “We’ve been told we will need to replace the playground” nearly as much as, “Our student results are decreasing”. Increasingly, school councils are spending more time discussing grants and fundraising than students and learning. In the end, students always lose when the focus is forced away from learning.

The Alberta Government offered a ray of hope in July 2017 when they announced that new schools would each receive $250,000 toward a new playground – a huge step forward for schools and communities. However, the devil is always in the details. The funding only applies to schools announced in 2014 or later, meaning that the 8 schools in Calgary announced in May 2013 do not qualify. Nor do the countless schools that need replacement playgrounds.

As Tina Turner so famously sang it, “All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome”.

— Amber Stewart is a Calgary parent and former school board trustee with the Calgary Board of Education(2013-2017). 


Notes From the Playground – Winners & Losers October 19, 2018

This series about current issues in education, Notes from the Playground gives a nod to the very early beginnings of SOS Alberta and where we first organized, as citizens talking to each other about one of the most powerful influences on our daily lives, our kids’ education. These are my thoughts on education matters this week, as always we welcome yours!

Carolyn Blasetti – Executive Director

Since Support Our Students Alberta began we have been concerned with the way schools consistently need to fill funding gaps through fundraising. There are few other issues more top of mind for Alberta parents than fundraising. Visit any school council or parent fundraising society meeting and you’ll hear both parents and administrators discussing how to raise money for basic resources, supplies and even infrastructure for their school. Often the conversation about fundraising hijacks discussions about other school issues and concerns. No longer are parents talking about building their school community or what’s happening in the school’s classrooms this month, they are talking about running coupon sales, deciding how to spend thousands of dollars on school furniture, flooring or computers or books. Schools find themselves becoming dependent on the rise and fall of fundraising dollars. And this is only if they are a school lucky enough to have the capacity within their school community to have a fundraising society.

Last year we highlighted concerns around schools competing in corporate contests for basic educational resources like books. Our concerns went unheard by decision makers in both government and school boards. We shared these concerns again this year. This year again, schools in lower income neighbourhoods pleaded their case in corporate competitions so that their kids, in their schools, could have books. No one, not city councillors, not trustees, not MLA‘s, expressed any concern for the inequity and injustice of having to compete for resources.

Thankfully, Eva Ferguson of the Herald expressed an interest in this issue. What followed has been some engaged discussions around schools needing books and schools needing playgrounds. Our goal of starting a dialogue around fundraising as being a way to absolve the government of its responsibility to properly fund public schools was finally playing out in public discourse.


We subsequently pointed out that St. Peter Elementary School in Calgary is also currently competing in a national corporate contest for funds to build a playground because they do not have any playground at all. We were pleased that Minister Eggen responded to this situation by providing much needed funding to St. Peter Elementary School. However, the reality remains for many schools across this province that they do not receive enough funding for books, playgrounds, technology or other resources.

We find ourselves in the same position as four years ago when we began our advocacy,  wondering why schools must fundraise for the most basic of resources? Knowing that schools in affluent high income neighbourhoods will not experience the same hardships and challenges of lower income communities. This dependency on fundraising and corporate donations creates have and have not schools, winner and losers.

Our goal as public education advocates has always been and will always be to build a system on UNIVERSALITY. Every Alberta child deserves a safe playground to play, every community deserves a place to build relationships with their neighbours, every child deserves books to read and every child deserves access to the same technology. We are very happy St. Peter Elementary School received funding for their playground from the Alberta government. But they are not alone. Since the announcement came out we have heard from multiple people about the need for a playground in their community public school. There is no reason that roughly $275 million a year should fund private schools when public schools go without. So while we are very thankful this particular story has had a happy ending, we know there is more work to do and we will reiterate our calls yet again for a review of the Alberta education funding model so that no student, no school and no parent must plead or compete with a corporation for basic educational resources.

Please feel free to share your experience with fundraising at your school! Comment or email us at info@supportourstudents.ca  


Notes From the Playground September 23, 2018

This series about current issues in education, Notes from the Playground gives a nod to the very early beginnings of SOS Alberta and where we first organized, as citizens talking to each other about one of the most powerful influences on our daily lives, our kids’ education. These are my thoughts on education matters this week, as always we welcome yours!

Carolyn Blasetti – Executive Director

This week in education news, light was shone upon teaching resources and materials used by the Alberta Distance Learning Centre which contained outdated and racist interpretation of Indigenous people, communities and the impact of residential schools.


We at SOS Alberta agree wholeheartedly that Alberta classrooms are long overdue for an update to all aspects of the Alberta curriculum. However, the materials used by teachers and students at ADLC were not part of the current outdated curriculum. The test was part of a supplemental RESOURCE that teachers have available to them. These resources are meant to compliment curriculum, but are not the actual curriculum. Teachers can and do choose from a wide array of materials, in this case the materials were far from the only ones available. In the same way a teacher might opt to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Hatchet for a language arts class, the choice is made by the teacher or teaching team, curriculum does not mandate the reading of a specific novel. There will be no argument from us that the the Social Studies curriculum, in particular how Indigenous history and the history of colonization in Canada is interpreted, needs a massive overhaul but the distinction between what is curriculum and what are supporting resources is an important distinction to make.

  • This incident is a clear example of how systemic racism works. Teachers have CHOSEN to use this resource for 8 years and students have taken this test year over year. Educators failing to recognize that this document was devoid of Indigenous perspective and perpetuating a narrow, oppressive view of residential schools until a student brought it forward shows how deeply systemic bias exists. If not for this student, how many more years would this document have been circulated in Alberta Education?
  • While we appreciate the minister’s response, we are disheartened by the obvious omission that this is in fact evidence of systemic racism. Calling this document hurtful and presenting it as a one off mistake as opposed to an explicit example of systemic racism does little to strengthen relationships in our community in accordance with the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Or in accordance with the Alberta Government’s own mandate that: “that current and future Kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum includes student learning outcomes specific to First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives and experiences, as well as content on the significance of residential schools and treaties. “ – Alberta Education March 27, 2014
  • It highlights the devastating impact on students and communities when outdated, biased resources are used and having educators ill prepared to teach perspectives which don’t follow the traditional eurocentric interpretation of Canadian history. We know the impact because we speak with students, parents, teachers, trustees and administrators daily, about the barriers that exist for marginalised students. That systemic bias within the education system is a reality for FNMI students, students of colour, disabled students and students in poverty. We applaud the student who bravely acted as an”agent of change” in bringing this forward, and hope that Albertans recognise this is NOT a unique incident and hope they will support initiatives that are working to change this.

As part of our advocacy we always hope to provide, actionable solutions:

  1. We hope the Education minister will acknowledge this is not an isolated incident, that he will include education voices in the Anti Racism Advisory Council.
  2. We fully support the writing of new curriculum and the commitment to Education for Reconciliation initiatives by the Alberta Education but would add curriculum support resources need to be thoroughly reviewed. Educators must also be trained themselves so that they can accurately teach about residential schools, treaties and Indigenous rights.
  3. Develop a province wide policy around anti-racism at all levels of education.

Resources – A Starting Place for Teaching for Reconciliation: (Please feel free to suggest others or add in the comments)

National Centre for Truth & Reconciliation

The John Humphrey Centre – Reconciliation in Schools

Residential Schools Teacher Resources – University of Alberta

decolonized Ed – A toolkit for Canadian teaching

GUIDING VOICES A Curriculum Development Tool for Inclusion of First Nation, Métis and Inuit Perspectives Throughout Curriculum

Walking Together Project, ATA


Rising Fees, Rising Inequity

This past week two of Alberta’s largest school boards voted yet again to increase fees around transportation and noon supervision. School boards have found a bottomless well for filling funding gaps, parents. Since 2011 the Calgary Board of Education(CBE) has increased school fees steadily, into the thousands for some families. In 2012 then parent Trina Hurdman  appealed to the minister of education Jeff Johnson that fees around noon supervision contravened the school act. http://www.trinahurdman.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Province-to-Review-School-Fees.pdf

On May 22, 2018 Trina Hurdman Chair of the board of trustees of the CBE voted in favor of raising both transportation and noon supervision fees for the fifth year since being elected trustee. Voting this year to increase noon supervision fees by up to 3.9 percent and transportation fees by 4.5 percent.

In Edmonton, despite efforts by Trustee Michael Janz to eliminate school fees entirely, the motion was withdrawn, and trustees instead voted in favor of raising transportation fees 5% over the next four years.

Again recognizing that where the Alberta government is failing to provide adequate financial resources school boards can and will continue to fill funding gaps by tapping into parents pockets. This continuing reliance on fees is concerning on many levels for Albertans. SOS Alberta will continue to stand against fees that are a barrier to accessing public education for the following reasons:

  1. School fees are effectively a user tax that disproportionately and an unequally affect families and even more so families living in poverty. School fees, despite Bill 1(An Act to Reduce School Fees) have only increased over the years.
  2. When school boards use fees to fill funding gaps they absolve the provincial government of their responsibilities to adequately fund public education. When families fill funding gaps by paying fees and fundraising the wheels of education continue turning with the government and public falsely left with the impression that things are running smoothly. But Alberta parents are disproportionately carrying the burden of education costs that the government is failing to meet, and they are left with few options. Parents hands are tied by the need (indeed the legal requirement for kids to go to school), to get children to school, and with no option but to have kids stay for lunch. There is effectively no choice but to pay whatever fees the school board has declared.
  3. While the government congratulates itself for pouring millions into education, funding for growth, extending one time funding grants, and obligating parents to make up the funding shortfalls, $278 million of public dollars continues to fund private schools. This is a clear indication that the funding model is broken. Support Our Students Alberta will continue to advocate for a full review of the funding model. Establishing a funding model where parents are not required to fill funding gaps created by a government underfunding public education.
  4. All of this inequity in fees are symptoms of a public system built on competition and marketization. Inadequate funding for decades in the public system has left schools and school boards vying for funding. Boutique schools, charter schools and private schools all dipping into the same government purse while attempting to provide service for their students by having to outdo the school next-door. This has led to a labyrinth of systems where children travel long routes to schools and are left with no option but to stay at school for lunch and then are charged for this perceived privilege. The fact of the matter is since 2015 families and parents have seen little respite from the financial burden of sending their children to public schools. It is time to review the funding model.
  5. At a time when we should be looking for efficiencies to maximize the funding we have, collecting spare change from thousand of different sources (families) must undoubtedly be the most inefficient way of funding a primary public service such as education. Fees generate millions of dollars in ‘gap funding,’ and the administration and collection of these fees represents a huge inefficiency for schools boards such as EPSB and CBE. Certainly, chasing after parents for fees has time and time again lead to school boards resorting to collection agencies to recuperate the funds.

Once upon a time an Education Minister in Alberta said: “Every child is entitled to attend school and get an education without charge”. That was Dave Hancock in 2011.

On May 24, 2018 current Education Minister David Eggen said “ You do see school fees increasing from time to time, that’s normal,”.  We disagree fundamentally with Minister Eggen, it is not normal. What we are seeing is the slow, sanctioned creep of privatization in our public institution of public education.

SOS Alberta would like to see a long term commitment by this government to redefine public education, in the same way Dave Hancock once did. As free and without barriers.

We would also like to see school boards push the government to do this by taking bold, maybe even symbolic steps to eliminating fees. Someone has to move the needle. Our suggestions, while challenging, include:

  • Motion a full review of the funding model for Alberta Education that clearly is not meeting the needs of students across Alberta.
  • Petitioning Alberta government to redirect the 278 million dollars to subsidize private schools to reduce school fees for the 94% of kids who attend public schools.
  • Revisist legislation that has charter schools leasing public school board facilities for $1/year. This is lost revenue for public school boards like the CBE that lease out several CBE owned buildings to charter schools.
  • Consider a stance on a provincial sales tax so that the user tax of school fees do not continue to disproportionately affect families.
  • Use reserves, acknowledging that depleting reserves would be a bold statement forcing a discussion around the issue, while acknowledging that yearly funds should be used to benefit students in that year, and thereby highlighting whether or not the funds from Alberta Education are sufficient.
  • Stand in solidarity with the ongoing work parents do (IF their school is privileged enough to have a parent council) by attending fundraising events such as casinos, bake sales and cheque writing campaigns. We would love to see Trustees participate in these events to highlight how fundraising has impacted public education.

In our 10 Strategies to Achieve Equitable Public Education we state:

  • #3. Eliminate ALL barriers including all school-related fees (including, but not limited to, instructional materials, bussing, lunch supervision) and application procedures.
  • #10. Recognize that public education is a public responsibility not a consumer good.  Its quality and accessibility should be equitable across the province.

It’s time to acknowledge that no child should have to access finances or waivers to simply get to their school, less so for the privilege of eating their lunch on the hallway or gym floor. While we recognize our solutions are bold, we are asking school boards to think outside the box.

We are asking school boards to defend public education. We are asking schools boards to stand in solidarity with children who can’t afford fees, and parents who continue to fundraise for basic resources. We are asking schools boards to stop taking the path of least resistance, which is to increase school fees year over year.  Parents are currently a captive audience with no recourse but to accept a government sanctioned increase of up to 5% every year.

We are asking public education to be redefined in this province and as long as school boards and the Alberta government sanctions the use of a user tax to fill funding gaps SOS AB will continue to fight this creeping privatization of our public institution.


Perspectives on GSAs – Do Better, Be Better

This letter was submitted to the North Bay Nugget by David Killawee in North Bay, ON.

In reference to article “Alberta conservatives vote to end carbon tax, tell parents if child joins GSA”, Monday 07-May-2018, North Bay Nugget.

This letter will be a little long winded so please bear with me. It does come to a point. Many people in this country don’t seem to realize how fortunate we are in this country that independence was gained politically, and that our ancestors did’nt have to go to war against a European power.  Our military personel didn’t gain us our freedoms, but, with the exception of serious crimes against First Nations people, they have defended them.  Thanks to them, and militaries from many countries, no Swastika, Rising Sun, or Hammer and Sickle has flown in the wind atop Parliament Hill.

It’s a mis-conception that during World War 2, a war born of hate and bigotry (and the fear, cowardice, and ignorance that spawn them) and greed, that our military fought to make the world a better place.  That’s at best only partially correct.  The reality is that they mainly fought to keep the world from getting worse, but it’s the nature of war that they could only partially succeed.  “Better” had to wait until the war was over.  They defended us, but the duty to make things better was, and still is, on all of us.  And still we’ve only partially succeeded.  We’ve also slid down into worse with forcing Native children into Residential Schools, Quebec’s language laws, Minimum Mandatory Sentencing, and many other ways.

Now this week of all weeks, this week when we remember those who fought, suffered, and especially those who died, to stop monsters and give us the chance to do better we find yet another group trying to make things worse.

As stated in the article 57% of the UPC ( United Conservative Party) convention delegates voted in favour of having school staff informing parents if their children join certain clubs including GSAs (Gay Straight Alliance), or similar clubs effectively outing these kids.

Regardless of the terms that these delegates use, they’re trying to get teachers to be complicit in their bigotry, and worse, dump the responsibility of putting some of these kids in danger on teachers who would have no recourse but to use a version of “I was just following orders” (that would be the cowardice I mentioned earlier).

This next part of the lettter is directed to the delegates in question.  Delegates who would put these kids at risk from potentially abusive, or situationaly dangerous parents.  Neither you, sitting MPPs, or anyone else have any authority to put children in harms way.  You are not generals who can order soldiers into combat, nor police captains who can send officers into potential firefights.  Anyone, including you, who tries to get this into law or school policy is directly responsible for any harm suffered by these kids, even if the student is over 18, along with whoever does the actual reporting to parents, and is subject to prosecution.  Just putting this into law or policy can endanger some kids and therefore is the crime, so you cannot distance or shield yourselves from prosecution, nor can you claim ignorance of the risk you would be putting some of these kids at.  I’m actually wondering if the 57% can be prosecuted now.  Now I understand that it’s unlikely that some obscure letter in a local Ontario newspaper will have much impact, so I want you to understand that published or not, this letter is also going to the RCMP, Alberta Provincial Police, Ministry of Education, as many Alberta school boards as possible… You get the picture.  I know that there are limits to what I can do to make the world better, but I can do my part to protect these kids from you.

To any students feeling pressured, don’t give up, or give in.  These delegates are making use of fear, intimidation and threat, these are terrorist tactics, it makes them weak not you.  The only power they have is what you give them, so give them nothing.  You win by living on your own terms not their’s.

Do better, be better, honour and remember those who gave us the opportunity and responsibility to make it happen

David Killawee

North Bay, ON