“Alberta children deserve to have an adequately funded education system for the growth our province and schools are experiencing. That is not happening. Alberta education is the worst funded in the country. Support Our Students (SOS) Alberta advocates for sustainable and adequate funding so that each Albertan child has equal access to a high quality education.” - Medeana Moussa, Executive Director
SOS would like to see the following in Budget 2024:
Wing Li (she/her)
Danielle Smith’s “Gender Identity” Policies are Draconian Violations of Trans & Queer Students’ Rights
On Wednesday, January 31, Premier Danielle Smith released a seven-minute video on X (formerly Twitter) about her alarming “Gender Identity” policies. Support Our Students Alberta absolutely opposes these proposed measures. These sweeping policies specifically target young Albertans who identify as LGBTQ2S+ and outright ban their access to safe schools, healthcare, medicine, and psychological support. In school settings, these students’ rights to safe self expression will also be banned. Queer and transgender students, especially those without affirming homes, are already vulnerable to alienation, isolation, suicide, and homelessness. Smith’s policies significantly multiply their risk of harm.
Alberta Students Continue to Learn in Overcrowded, Highly Complex Classrooms Despite Government Announcement
After too many consecutive years of steep education cuts, the small injection by the UCP Government today is significantly short of what is actually needed to alleviate overcrowded and highly complex Alberta classrooms. Statistics Canada found that Alberta comes in dead last and well below the national average in per-student spending. Meanwhile, a record number of new families are moving to Alberta from other provinces and abroad. Combined with historic inflation pressures, this means today's announcement of $30 million distributed across many school divisions does not go far to address the estimated $1.2 billion/year shortfall of education funding. Earlier this week, the UCP Government struck down a proposed Education (Class Size and Composition) Amendment Act that would have restored public class size reporting, augmented funding, and overall transparency about the tangible crisis in public education. It was the UCP government themselves who removed class size reporting and funding in 2019. All this shows they are not truly committed to concrete action and this negligence only leaves students without adequate educational resources.
“They can’t manage what they don’t measure. By refusing to restore public class size tracking and transparency, we cannot concretely quantify overcrowded and complex class compositions. However, we know by being inside the schools that class sizes are the largest they’ve ever been. The reality is that students are being squeezed into classes of 35, 40 or even more kids. We don’t have enough resources, support staff, or educators” says Medeana Moussa, Executive Director of Support Our Students.
Students deserve to receive adequate space, instruction, care, and resources in their education. The public deserves to know just how crowded and complex our classrooms have become.
“Today’s funding announcement allocates minimal (delayed) dollars towards our severely strained public education system. It surely does not go the distance and serves only as a short term bandaid solution. There will be no accountability of where this money goes. We need a targeted, comprehensive action plan that includes meaningful systemic supports to re-commit to providing high quality public education accessible for every student. Today’s announcement does not begin to cover the operational and infrastructure deficits we are facing,” adds Medeana Moussa.
Support Our Students calls on government to 1) restore open class size reporting across the province; 2) monitor and fund classroom complexities; 3) permanently fix the funding formula to stop penalizing growing school divisions; and 4) restore funding for instructional and infrastructure deficits. As government continues to withhold information and resources, the Alberta’s public education system remains direly strained and students are the ones paying the price.
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Media inquiries please contact:
Wing Li (she/her)
Communications Director, Support Our Students Alberta
After several years of flat education spending (which amounted to real cuts, leaving thousands of Alberta students in public schools unfunded), the mere injection of 5.2% of operational funding will hardly meet the bare minimum for funding enrollment growth. Statistics Canada found that Alberta comes in dead last and well below the national average in per-student spending. Alberta students sit in some of the largest, most crowded classrooms compared to other provinces. Coupled with historic inflation, increased insurance premiums, increased utility costs, and pandemic measures, as well as pandemic learning losses, this budget leaves public school students with even less supports and resources than they had in 2019. Despite the government's huge surplus, this budget leaves students in public schools ignored and gravely neglected.
The real winners of this budget are private and charter schools. There is new funding for private school transportation and new charter school construction. Private schools are already subsidized at the highest rate in the nation at 70% of the per-pupil rate. Nineteen private schools in Alberta charge more than $12,000 of private tuition per student per year. These are not students that need more public assistance in attending their exclusive education. Public funding belongs to PUBLIC schools that serve all students.
Charter schools are private entities that siphon public funding and skim which students they want, but they are not public schools. Their expansion (with public funds) means community public schools will educate more complex classrooms with fewer resources or close down altogether if they fall under utilization rates. Charter schools will receive $117 million of new capital funding over 3 years. An urban Charter Hub to sell more student spaces in Calgary and Edmonton will be given $42 million to expand over 3 years. An additional $32 million in new public money will be spent on “acquiring and renovating school buildings for charter schools” (p 106, Fiscal Plan). All these millions of dollars are crucial resources that could go towards re-hiring educators, therapists, librarians, school counsellors, and restoring PUF in public schools.
“The UCP have shown their true priorities in this final pre-election budget and it’s not Alberta students. Their offerings do not come close to making up for the past 4 years of relentless cuts and attacks on public education. Instead, they are diverting more public and surplus dollars to private and charter schools who do not serve the public. Enough is enough, Alberta voters need to vote for public education.” - Medeana Moussa, Executive Director, SOS Alberta
The UCP’s 2023 Budget tosses minimal surplus spending at public education, which is struggling from years of strain. Students deserve better than being ignored by this government. Moreover, public dollars should go to public schools, period. Public schools educate the public for the public good while charter and private schools are exclusive entities that lack oversight and transparency in educating the select few.
Media inquiries please contact:
Wing Li (she/her)
Communications Director, Support Our Students Alberta
Support Our Students Calls for End of Charter School Experiment: Pick a Lane As Fully Public or Private
Since their introduction in 1994, Alberta charter schools have received 100% per student funding of public dollars but have been granted different regulations than public school boards. Charter schools are not obligated to admit every applicant, and can deny entry based on entrance exams or other factors. Charter schools are also governed by closed entities that are not democratically elected by the population at large. As such, they are publicly funded but privately operated. Neither fully public nor fully private.
Under this hybrid, charter schools divert funding from public community schools for exclusive interests, not accessible to many. With the lifting of the charter authority cap by the United Conservative Government, at least 3 new charter schools have been approved with more waiting in the wings. Their Choice in Education Act now permits charter applications to bypass local public school boards and charters are granted at the sole discretion of the Minister of Education.
Lack of transparency, absent of open evaluation of their original mandate, and duplicity of programming that exists in the public system are all red flags. There is only one pot of money; funding that goes to charter schools is being diverted from community schools that already have capital and operational deficits. Charters pose a real and imminent threat to neighbourhood schools by marketing to families and siphoning off students, forcing public school closures. This has already happened in Calgary and is spreading into rural municipalities. A student living across the street from a charter school may be denied access and may now have to bus to the closest public school outside of their area.
Originally, the charter experiment was supposed to test innovations to be brought back to the public system. But the process was never properly established and has been obscured by lack of transparency. The charter experiment has run its course. The solution to making public schools more equitable is expanding accommodations and being more inclusive. The answer is not exclusive charter schools that self-select students using public funds.
"Alberta is the only province in Canada with charter schools but it is an American import system. This is the accelerated erosion of public education in real time. Charter schools are a pathway to a tiered system that fragments neighbourhoods and societies. It is money going to a few at the expense of the many.” - Medeana Moussa, Executive Director, Support Our Students Alberta
For 7 years, Support Our Students has been sounding the alarm on the creeping agenda to erode public education in Alberta. The privatization agenda of education has been well documented, and played out disastrously in the US. High-quality, equitable public education accessible to all is a fundamental pillar of democracy. Charter schools are an affront to the integrity of public education in Alberta. Their rapid expansion without public oversight is accelerating the destabilization of public education. Charters need to pick a lane. It’s time to fold them into the public system or declare them true private enterprises.
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Support Our Students calls on public, separate and francophone school boards to release proposed charter school notifications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 31, 2022
In response to recent revelations that the Minister of Education has approved new charter school applications without public awareness or consultation, Support Our Students (SOS) Alberta delivered the attached letter last week to the boards of the public, separate and francophone school authorities of Alberta through the Alberta School Boards Association (ABSA). Our letter calls on them to make public any charter school notifications they are legally entitled to and to commit to leading public consultations in the future.
With the provincial government supporting charter school growth through the Choice in Education Act (Bill 15) which allows new charter school applications to bypass public school board adjudication, Albertans, more than ever, are in need of proactive leadership by Public, Separate and Francophone School Boards to protect our public education system. Section 24 of the Education Act still requires the Minister to at least notify school boards of proposed charter school applications. We need to leverage this remaining tool of public accountability to monitor diversion of public funds to the private charter system.
“It is imperative that the public be informed. We do not want our neighbourhood public schools where all children are welcome, to be taken over by special interest charter schools where only a select group have access. We call on school boards to provide transparency of charter applications to ensure broad public consultation can occur.” -Medeana Moussa, Executive Director of Support Our Students Alberta
Letter sent to Alberta School Boards Association follows:
Support Our Students Alberta Foundation
P.O. Box 75028 CAMBRIAN
Calgary AB, T2K 6J8
(La version française suit la présente version anglaise)
21 January, 2022
Alberta School Boards Association
1200, 9925 109 St
Edmonton, AB T5K 2J8
RE: PUBLIC NOTIFICATION AND CONSULTATION
OF CHARTER SCHOOL APPLICATIONS
Boards of the Public, Separate and Francophone School Authorities of Alberta,
Albertans have become aware of charter school applications recently approved by the Minister of Education. These charter school applications were conspicuously lacking in general public awareness and consultation intended by legislation; as you are aware, pursuant to Section 24 of the Education Act, the Minister shall “provide notice of the application for a new charter school and the proposed programming to every board of a public or separate school division and Francophone regional authority.” School boards have the responsibility to make public any notifications of charter school applications they may receive from the Minister and initiate and lead robust public consultations surrounding the impacts such a charter school would have, if approved, on the public education system.
More charter school applications are very likely to be under current consideration of the Minister without general public knowledge and similarly lacking robust public consultation.
Support Our Students Alberta calls upon all boards of Public, Separate and Francophone School Authorities of Alberta to make public any notifications of charter school applications they may have received, or alternately, confirm that no charter school notifications have been received, within a timely manner of notification by the Minister of Education and commit to leading public consultations moving forward.
Thank you for your consideration and we look forward to your response.
Support Our Students Alberta
21 janvier 2022
Association des commissions scolaires de l’Alberta
1200, 9925 109 St
Edmonton, AB T5K 2J8
OBJET : NOTIFICATION ET CONSULTATION
PUBLIQUES DES DEMANDES D'ÉCOLES À CHARTE
Conseils des autorités scolaires publiques, séparées et francophones de l'Alberta,
Les Albertains ont pris connaissance des demandes d'écoles à charte récemment approuvées par le ministre de l'Éducation. Comme vous le savez, en vertu de l'article 24 de la Loi sur l'éducation, le ministre doit "aviser chaque conseil scolaire d'une division scolaire publique ou séparée et chaque autorité régionale francophone de la demande de création d'une nouvelle école à charte et de la programmation proposée". Les conseils scolaires ont la responsabilité de rendre public tout avis de demande d'école à charte qu'ils peuvent recevoir du ministre et d'initier et de diriger de solides consultations publiques sur les impacts qu'une telle école à charte aurait, si elle était approuvée, sur le système d'éducation publique.
Il est très probable que d'autres demandes d'écoles à charte soient actuellement examinées par le ministre sans que le grand public en soit informé et sans qu'il n’y ait eu de consultation publique rigoureuse.
Support Our Students Alberta demande à tous les conseils d'administration des écoles publiques, séparées et francophones de l'Alberta de rendre publiques toutes les notifications de demandes d'écoles à charte qu'ils ont reçues, ou alternativement, de confirmer qu'aucune notification d'école à charte n'a été reçue, en temps opportun après notification par le ministre de l'Éducation et de s'engager à diriger les consultations publiques à l'avenir.
Nous vous remercions de votre attention et demeurons dans l’attente de votre réponse.
Support Our Students Alberta
Media inquiries about this release can be directed at:
Wing Li (she/her)
Support Our Students deems changes to UCP K-6 draft curriculum insufficient and calls for a complete rewrite
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 13, 2021
Support Our Students (SOS) Alberta’s response to today’s announcement by Minister LaGrange of changes to the implementation of the draft K-6 curriculum is that the changes are minimal and cosmetic in nature, and do not represent the substantive and overarching revision that Albertans have called for.
Some elements of the curriculum criticized by experts will still be implemented in Fall 2022. The government plans to implement English language arts and literature, math, and physical education and wellness portions of the draft curriculum, while science and fine arts (music) will be updated and launched at a later date.
Today’s announcement made it clear that public pressure has forced the government’s hand to some degree; the disastrous social studies curriculum will not be implemented in its current form. However, the design blueprint that the Minister referred to as the guiding document for refinement of the curriculum does not differ substantially from the original draft. This is still a regressive, developmentally inappropriate approach that does not align with current expert opinion on social studies curriculum development.
“SOS Alberta advocates for all students to have universal access to high quality education. This curriculum will not prepare students for the future and will fail Alberta children. Citizens must keep up the pressure.”
– Medeana Moussa, Executive Director, SOS
Any indication of meaningful engagement with teachers and curriculum experts was noticeably absent from today’s press conference. SOS believes that no meaningful progress on curriculum development can be made without full collaboration with teachers and curriculum experts from the province’s universities.
Today’s press conference was an exercise in delivering optics over substance. It was an attempt to convince voters, particularly parents, that their concerns with the draft curriculum content and process were addressed with a few superficial changes and a delay in implementation of some subjects. However the government has not stepped back from its highly politicized approach to curriculum development, or from its exclusion of teachers and curriculum experts from meaningful input.
SOS renews its calls for the Premier and the Minister of Education to:
Please direct media inquiries to:
Wing Li (she/her)
Support Our Students (SOS) Alberta is urgently calling on the Alberta government to reinstate public health contact tracing for schools, which was eliminated by a change in provincial guidelines. With this change, schools will no longer receive notifications from Alberta Health Services regarding positive test cases or exposures. Public health will not step in until at least 10% of a school population is absent. This is an utter abdication of government duty especially as the school year has started amid rapidly rising cases of highly transmissible Delta variant.
Last year (2020/21), families relied heavily on contact tracing to know when/if students were exposed at school. During a public health crisis, having open and transparent knowledge is necessary for decision-making at the individual and community level.
Because of government’s withdrawal of school-based contact tracing, the scarcity of case notifications is preventing SOS Alberta from continuing our COVID-19 School Tracker in the same consistent format as last year. Our School Tracker was updated every day. It was viewed over 4 million times by over 430,000 Albertans. This speaks to the huge public demand for transparent and up-to-date school case information.
However, after one week of school in session, current available data is so insufficient that our community sources simply do not have adequate data to provide. Furthermore, we reiterate unequivocally that it is the job of government to provide this essential tracking protocol as they have the centralized resources and infrastructure administered by public funds. By withholding case statistics, the government is creating a massive information black hole and throwing families into even more tumultuous uncertainty.
“After 18 months of this pandemic, the AB government still refuses to prioritize safer schools and have now withdrawn even the basic tool of contact tracing for schools. Parents & guardians need to know if their child was exposed to a highly contagious disease to make complex decisions for their families in an informed and proactive manner. The government is disempowering families by withholding information.”
- Medeana Moussa, Executive Director of Support Our Students
While SOS Alberta cannot continue with our daily COVID-19 School Tracker due to this dearth of information, we will continue to support Alberta families by monitoring the province-wide school situation however we can.
Support Our Students (SOS) Alberta is a non-profit citizens’ action group advocating for universally accessible and equitable public education in Alberta. www.supportourstudents.ca
Contact Wing Li (She/her) at email@example.com
Support Our Students (SOS) Alberta, with support from Alberta Federation of Labour, have released an easy-to-use letter writing tool at www.safeschoolsAB.ca for parents and community members to write to their provincial Member of Legislative Assembly or School Board Trustee. With school starting in less than two weeks, Alberta’s students need Swiss-cheese layers of protection to ensure equitable and safe access to education. Moreover, education workers should be protected in their workplaces. Rapidly rising cases of COVID-19 in the province, especially of the Delta variant, and low vaccination rates threaten the sustainability of in-person learning. Combined with the fact that children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination, government must prioritize mitigation of spread and infection in schools. We must avoid the same tumultuous roller coaster of school closures that we witnessed last school year.
The online tool will be available for Albertans throughout the province, featuring a database of all MLAs, and every public, separate and francophone school board trustees and superintendents.
The tool will generate letters demanding the provincial government:
1) Reinstate Re-instate Alberta Health Services notification, contact tracing, and reporting of school cases (including open reporting of outbreaks in schools)
2) Implement province-wide mandatory masking for pre-K to Grade 12
3) Directly fund portable filtration units and CO2 monitors to assess air quality in classrooms
Also, the tool will generate letters requesting school boards to:
1) Implement mandatory masking for pre-K to Grade 12
2) Install portable filtration units (plus ventilation assessments as previous guidelines pre-date COVID-19 pandemic)
3) Maintain cohorting and physical distancing
“Through years of chronic underfunding, plus deferred infrastructure updates, Alberta’s public schools need to be equipped with immediate and long-term mitigation measures to ensure every student can access a safe learning environment. The prolonged COVID-19 pandemic has amplified education inequities and now more than ever we need to prioritize students.” – Medeana Moussa, Executive Director, Support Our Students
“The Kenney government is abdicating its responsibility to protect students and education staff in the fourth wave of the pandemic. That’s why we’re supporting SOS with this new online tool. We simply can’t allow 400,000 of our unvaccinated kids to go back to school without adequate protections. Albertans need to demand leadership and funding from the province. And if the province is going to persist in downloading responsibility to school boards, then we need to make sure trustees know what needs to be done: and that means mandatory masking; and CO2 monitors and air filtration in every classroom.” - Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour
Support Our Students Alberta is a non-profit citizens’ action group advocating for universally accessible and equitable public education in Alberta.
Alberta Federation of Labour is the largest worker advocacy group in Alberta, representing approximately 170,000 workers from 29 affiliated unions.
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Support Our Students Alberta (SOS) is announcing the conclusion of their COVID-19 School Tracker on June 30, 2021, coinciding with the end of the 2020/21 school year. The SOS COVID-19 School Tracker was started in September 2020 to provide parents, students and members of the public with trustworthy, detailed, and timely information on the COVID-19 situation in Alberta K-12 schools. SOS relied on crowdsourced submissions of COVID notification letters from thousands of parents.
Some facts on the SOS COVID-19 School Tracker:
- Wing Li, SOS COVID-19 School Tracker Coordinator & Communications Director
“I never expected back in September of last year that there would be as many cases in schools, or as frequently, as what we've seen over the past 10 months. The hundreds of hours I've spent volunteering to assist SOS in cataloging cases in schools pales in comparison to the millions of hours lost by students and teachers having to isolate themselves away from their classrooms this year. I hope in retrospect the SOS COVID-19 case tracking project will serve as a reminder in the future of why putting greater emphasis on student safety and evolving safety protocols throughout the school year would have helped to avoid the terrible burden COVID-19 has been on all Albertans."
- Aryn Toombs, SOS COVID-19 School Tracker Volunteer
“I really would like to extend my utmost appreciation to the SOS volunteers who contributed a herculean effort to process the often overwhelming rate of case reports, and the thousands of parents who forwarded the notifications to us. It was hard work, but we really believed that Albertans deserved to know the truth of what was going on in their schools. Our goal was to be a trusted, accurate source, and we are very proud that we achieved that and Albertans turned to us.”
- Medeana Moussa, SOS Executive Director
The data from the School Tracker will be archived and made available for use by researchers.
Moving forward, SOS calls on the Alberta government to prioritize school data transparency and enhance safety in schools as these are their obligations to the public.