Support Our Students Files Complaint with Privacy Commissioner Over Alberta Education Storing Private Information Outside of Canada
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Calgary – Today, Support Our Students Alberta, a public education advocacy organization, filed a complaint with the Alberta Privacy Commissioner over Alberta Education’s use of a third-party information technology service provider, namely SurveyMonkey, to process and store private information of Albertans outside of Canada, in contravention of the Personal Information Protection Act.
It appears that SurveyMonkey has recently become the de-facto standard for public engagement by this government, raising serious privacy concerns. This platform is collecting private information of Albertans, including free-text responses and possibly identifying information, that normally would not be releasable under a public freedom-of-information request, and processing and storing this information outside of Canada.
We assert that the Government of Alberta failed in its responsibilities to properly notify Albertans that their private information will be stored outside of Canada and are concerned this sets a dangerous precedent. We question what processes were followed to ensure compliance with privacy standards, and what controls are in place to ensure access to personal data in third-party systems cannot be exploited for partisan purposes at a later date.
As Alberta’s advocates for equitable and accessible public education, Support Our Students Alberta has an interest in ensuring that the many Albertans we represent are appropriately protected when engaging with our government.
Support Our Students Alberta (SOSAB) calls on the Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, to initiate an independent audit of Alberta Education’s financial practices in light of internal budget documents obtained through a freedom-of-information request by the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA). These documents directly contradict repeated claims by Minister of Education, Adriana LaGrange, that enrollment growth would be funded for the 2019/2020 school year.
Based on the government information obtained by the ATA, SOS Alberta calculates an average per-pupil decrease of $370 in the UCP’s current budget, despite the Minister’s claims to the contrary. For a school with a student population of 400, this manifests as a $148,000 shortfall in funding.
Each and every of the 63 public, separate and francophone school divisions in Alberta have been dealt a per-pupil funding cut, contrary to the Minister LaGrange’s repeated claims that enrollment growth would be funded. This is yet another example of this UCP government’s questionable, irresponsible relationship with the truth. Albertans expect this UCP government to lead-by-example with respect to transparency, accountability, and integrity; an independent audit is the only way for Albertans to uncover how repeated Government statements can be so incompatible with reality.
This government accused the CBE of fiscal mismanagement under the premise that funding for education was maintained; the latest revelations undercut this premise, demonstrating that the CBE’s budgetary constraints were a consequence of provincial cuts and not at the board level, as accused by the Minister. Independently auditing the CBE for what is now shown to be a manufactured crisis is wasteful and irresponsible use of tax dollars.
Support our Students Alberta is a not-for-profit, all-volunteer organization that advocates for equitable and accessible public education in Alberta.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOS RESPONSE TO CBE 2019 BUDGET IMPACT
Support Our Students Alberta
It comes as no surprise to SOS Alberta that the CBE released its revised economic outlook for the 2019/2020 school year as a significant shortfall, resulting from the 2019 provincial budget released October 24, 2019.
CBE’s announcement of a $48 Million dollar shortfall is an echo of many other school boards like Edmonton Public and Rockyview School Division who have also come forward with shortfalls of $34 Million and $10 Million dollars respectively. This brings the total shortfall of school boards that have reported to $116 Million dollars (note this total only accounts for 7 of 61 boards).
It is increasingly obvious that this government is actively working against public education. There is a consistent and deliberate effort to underfund and undermine school boards across the province as evidenced by the repeated emphasis of the Minister regarding school board autonomy. This is simply a way to deflect from the responsibility this government has to adequately fund public education across Alberta.
This chronic underfunding means schools will rely even more so on fundraising to fill funding gaps. This places an undue burden on families already struggling economically.
It also means schools that do not have parent councils or parent associations will not have the ability to fundraise at all.
It also means school boards will fallback on school fees as another way to fill funding gaps. Again, this is another deliberate move to commodify education, and creates an economic barrier for many families.
This is how inequity widens, this is how we exacerbate have and have-not schools, have and have-not students.
To this end, SOS Alberta has created a VERY easy, user friendly way for Albertans to have their voices heard.
Today we launch a letter writing campaign that Albertans can use to email Premier Jason Kenney, the Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange and their own MLA to express their disappointment with this budget.
Funding for public education must be a priority, and the responsibility for doing so lies squarely on the shoulders of our provincial government, not on the backs of parents or students.
Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions or concerns.
Support our Students Alberta
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
BUDGET 2019 -- SUPPORT OUR STUDENTS ALBERTA RESPONSE
As advocates for an equitable, accessible and quality public education system we are concerned with this government’s approach to funding education in Alberta.
Funding: the proposed funding model for Alberta Education 2019 will fall short of meeting the needs of Alberta students across the province. Maintaining total expenditure on education at 8.2 billion dollars, as the student population grows in Alberta by 2.2% effectively reduces the per student funding. This means every student in Alberta will have to be educated for less money. This budget does not adequately account for more students in the system, increasing expenses related to teacher pay, transportation, school maintenance and other resources and supports. Projections for the next 3 years show that funding will be less than funding for 2018-2019. The claim that funding for education is maintained in this budget is inaccurate.
Capital projects: Failure to meet infrastructure commitments is a disappointment that will be felt across the province. Particularly, as this government struggles to address ballooning class sizes. In order to properly address class size, two things must be considered; sufficient number of teachers, and adequate physical space. In metro boards many schools are operating at over 100% capacity. Making inadequate investments to build much needed infrastructure is disappointing but in keeping with the overall strategy to undermine public education by this government. 1.8 Billion dollars over 4 years will not meet the growing needs for Alberta students, when two metro boards currently have over 2 billion dollars in deferred maintenance at this very moment.
New Legislation: The UCP promise to implement a Choice In Education Act is reflected in this budget. “increase parents’ choice by increasing school boards’ ability to provide specialized educational services focused on students needs”. Choice is yet another way to dilute and undermine public education. When resources are scarce, SOS Alberta sees an obligation to focus all public funds towards public education as opposed to diluting the funding across various systems. That 290 million dollars is diverted from public education annually to subsidize private schools is an irresponsible use of public dollars during times of so called “austerity”. Coincidentally, our calculations indicate this budget should it have funded for growth on a per student basis is ~250 Million dollars.
MacKinnon report: This budget presented today is a mirror of the recommendations made in the MacKinnon Report. With extensive reference to performance based outcomes, increased reliance on non government funding, and expanded choice in education. Public education in Alberta is not safe from extensive austerity measures as indicated today.
SOS Alberta believes strongly that the quality and accessibility of a child's education should not be contingent on the price of oil. We understand the current economic situation makes budgeting decisions difficult. However, recognizing that education is an investment that pays substantial dividends is important for Albertans to support and even more important for our government to act on.
This government’s obsession with debt reduction will happen at the expense of Alberta’s children, their education, their wellbeing, and ultimately the economic future of this province. The inability to concentrate and augment funding for public education is an assault on Alberta children, 94% of whom are educated through the public system. As with all governments who prioritize choice over universality in education, the goal is clearly to undermine our current public system. We strongly oppose this budget and its failure to provide adequate resources for children across Alberta.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.