Support Our Students Deems the UCP K-6 Draft Curriculum A Clear and Present Danger to Education in Alberta
This Draft Curriculum, if implemented, threatens the integrity and foundational principles of the education of children in Alberta. It neglects the dignity of students by prioritizing fact memorization instead of continually building on themes to develop critical thinking. It fails to recognize children as active, curious learners who deserve age-appropriate education that fosters their innate sense of wonder and explorative inclinations in a meaningful way.
The UCP approach used to to develop this Draft Curriculum is a complete departure from all past Alberta governments and has resulted in this immensely problematic document. This curriculum process and content have been politicized which SOS believes to be an overreach of office. Support Our Students AB (SOS) points to the following significant problems:
“The politicizing of this process and thereby of children aged 5-12 years old, is completely unacceptable and is an attempt to undermine public education and to shift our Canadian values. SOS completely rejects this Draft Curriculum and the new politicized approach undertaken by the Kenney government.” Medeana Moussa, Executive Director SOS
SOS calls on the Premier and the Minister of Education to:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
February 25, 2021
Contact: Wing Li, Communications Director, email@example.com
Budget 2021: K-12 Public Education Left Behind
After a year full of unpredictability, one area that remains predictable is Jason Kenney’s continued underfunding & undermining of Alberta’s public education system, as seen in the UCP’s 2021 Budget released today.
As advocates for equitable, accessible and quality public education, we are concerned with this government’s continued de-prioritization of education. This budget’s failure to properly restore stability for students and education workers is particularly insidious.
Pandemic mismanagement and overspending as an excuse to deny schools what they need
The pandemic has exacerbated and amplified inequities for students, but instead of taking this as an opportunity to restore or add essential resources, Kenney is using their mismanagement of the pandemic and overspending through poor planning as an excuse to further erode public education by denying school boards desperately needed funding. Students are clearly left behind in the so-called ‘recovery plan’ tabled today. Most boards have now completely drained their reserves; many of which were forced to deplete their small pool of resources to accommodate for safety measures, staffing shortages and to support online learning.
“Flat funding” is in reality a cut per student
As anticipated, the UCP continues the tired use of coded language “education funding held flat at $8.2B” to cover up actual funding cut per student when rising enrolment, inflation, and continued need for pandemic measures are taken into account. Introduction of the weighted moving average model last year hid many of these cuts but in practice, per-student funding continues to drop compared to pre-2019 levels.
Unwavering fixation with MacKinnon Report
In 2019, the ideological MacKinnon Report set the stage for Kenney’s multi-year agenda to cut education spending to be more “in line with other provinces.” Since 2019, the UCP have been so unwavering in their austerity that we saw back-to-back education cuts, and Kenney even underfunded pandemic relief, leaving students and education workers vulnerable to COVID-19 exposure in the past year.
Inadequate COVID-19 relief & inadequate resources to restore stability
The meagre and disingenuous quote of $88M earmarked for a “safe return to schools & critical worker benefits” is a glaring deficiency. Eligibility and application of these funds will likely be tied up in red tape and shuffled from other defunded education grants. As children will not be eligible for vaccines in the foreseeable future, they remain susceptible. Instead of bolstering school safety for the long-term, this government has shown that students’ health and safety continue to be non-priorities. Further, school boards are preparing recovery programs to help bridge gaps from a year and a half of tumultuous disruptions. Boards may need to extend online/hybrid learning options in the fall and beyond. Students will require supplemental supports in the year(s) ahead after widespread disruptions through COVID. But there continues to be no concrete plan for students and no vision for their future.
In a critical time when the confluence of the pandemic, chronic underfunding, and social inequities have come to a boiling point, the UCP have shown they don’t have a proactive plan forward. They merely react and use external factors as excuses for their lazy, unimaginative financial decisions. Despite the UCP’s obsession with “Choice in Education,” Albertans have consistently shown that they choose PUBLIC EDUCATION, and will continue to do so. Equitable, robust and barrier-free public education is a fundamental pillar for a healing society. As such, without sincerely prioritizing public education, Kenney’s superficial pandemic ‘recovery plan’ is not worth the paper it’s printed on.
For questions related to this release, please contact Wing Li, Communications Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SOS ALBERTA RESPONDS TO ANNOUNCEMENT OF IN-PERSON CLASSES RESUMING JANUARY 11: LACK OF PLANNING UNDISCIPLINED & RISKY
Following Premier Kenney’s announcement this afternoon that Alberta K-12 students will return to in-person classes January 11th, Support Our Students Alberta is extremely concerned about the actual sustainability of learning. We are equally concerned for the health and safety of students and education workers in the coming weeks. Premier Kenney failed to announce much-needed resources to maintain school stability in the current pandemic context. Given this, we believe this decision is politically biased, and fails to properly centre the real needs of students (physical, mental, developmental) for sustained, safe learning. They are being sent back without sufficient risk mitigation. Kenney DID NOT use the time since Nov. 30 when Gr 7-12 went online to prepare an evidence-based plan to avoid the roller coaster of quarantines, contact tracing collapse, and escalation of school cases we witnessed in the fall.
“Despite having an additional six weeks to improve supports for schools, Premier Kenney is choosing to forge ahead with the same non-plan for schools they have had since the start of this pandemic.” - Medeana Moussa, Executive Director, SOS Alberta
The lack of adequate transparency of school cases and in-school transmission data to the public have bred a high level of general distrust and confusion in this announcement. This announcement, lacking in vision and preparedness, is another example of dangerously undisciplined policy-making that further erodes public trust in Kenney’s duty to protect Alberta students & Albertans in general.
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
Please direct inquiries related to this statement to Wing Li, Communications Director.
SOS Alberta and RAD Educators Call on the Minister of Education to Definitively Cancel all Standardized Tests for the 2020/21 School Year
Monday, November 16, 2020
For Immediate Release
Demanding students write standard exams in a non-standard year shows complete disregard for the impact COVID19 is having on our education system
Standardized exams are structured so all test takers answer the same questions under the same conditions. But clearly, conditions are not standard this year. The pandemic has caused significant disruption to learning environments. Support Our Students and RAD Educators Network jointly call for the cancellation of both Provincial Achievement Tests and Diploma exams for all students this year.
There is a vast disparity, province-wide, in students’ learning environments; almost 30% of students in Edmonton Public are registered in at-home learning compared to 18% in CBE; some high schools have condensed learning time by shifting to quarterly semesters while others have remained unadjusted. In addition, thousands of students have had to isolate for weeks at a time, further disrupting their education. COVID-19 case numbers, school closures and transitions to Scenario 3 (at-home learning) are increasing throughout Alberta, the situation shows no sign of abating.
Placing the onus of standardized exam continuation on school boards and students creates further inconsistency and compounds the issue. This needs to be a centralized decision, the Minister of Education needs to definitively cancel standardized exams.
Medeana Moussa, Executive Director of Support Our Students says “[i]t is nonsensical for the Minister of Education to refuse to adjust for the widespread disruption to learning in this pandemic school year. It is irresponsible to forge ahead as though students' learning hasn’t been impacted, and continue to allocate money to standardized tests when funding for education is scarce. Alberta students deserve a definitive cancellation of PATs and Diplomas this year.”
RAD Educators Network believes “Standardized tests measure privilege more than academic achievement. An over reliance on these exams risks creating a narrowed curriculum instead of encouraging critical and creative thinking throughout a student's learning. Good teacher observation, documentation of student work, and performance-based assessment, provide a much more accurate metric of student learning outcomes. We call for the Minister of Education to cancel standardized tests full stop.”
Support Our Students Alberta is a non profit citizens action group advocating for universally accessible and equitable public education in Alberta. www.supportourstudents.ca
The RAD Educators Network is a collective of educators (teachers, professors, researchers, activists, early-childhood educators, etc.) from across Alberta who are working for equity and social justice education. www.medium.com
Please direct inquiries to:
SOS Alberta: Wing Li, Communications Director. Email: email@example.com
RAD Educators Network: Cathryn van Kessel, Twitter: @RADEducators Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SOS ALBERTA CALLS FOR GOVERNMENT REPORTING ON FULL IMPACT OF COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS, INCLUDING ISOLATION STATISTICS
Support Our Students (SOS) Alberta welcomes today's belated announcement from the Government of Alberta on the launch of a COVID-19 school tracking website. SOS calls on the government to report data on the full impact of COVID on the school community, including the number of isolated staff and students. Following reports of hundreds of staff and students isolated for 14 days after only a few days of school, Albertan families are owed transparency on the full extent of disruption caused by COVID-19 in our schools, as this disruption has a direct impact on their lives and livelihoods.
“That, after six months of preparation of a ‘robust’ plan, the Government of Alberta was not prepared to offer Albertans a trusted source of COVID-19 school information in time for school re-entry truly highlights how little this government understands the concerns of parents and how little effort they invested in preparation. The public demand for this information from a trusted source was eminently foreseeable,” explained Medeana Moussa, Executive Director of Support Our Students.
In lieu of an official source of information, and in anticipation of parent demand for a trusted source, SOS launched its own COVID-19 tracking website prior to the first day of school. SOS recognized the realities of how Alberta families exist in both their school and neighbourhood communities, how those communities can be different yet overlapping. SOS understands the concerns of parents whose children may go to schools outside their communities, such as interacting with children in neighbourhood playgrounds. For these reasons in the first four days of operation, SOS’s COVID-19 tracker was visited over 48,000 times. Albertans have come to trust the SOS COVID-19 tracker as a timely and reliable source; SOS will continue to operate its own tracker until the Government can demonstrate a comparable degree of timeliness, completeness, and credibility.
SOS adds schools/updates to our tracker if an official communication by a school, school authority, or AHS has been made to the school community, or reported by a reputable media source. The SOS tracker makes no inferences or assumptions about the events, simply tallies them and provides access to the confirmed communication.
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
SOS ALBERTA CALLS FOR FEDERAL FUNDING TO GO TOWARDS PUBLIC SCHOOLS; FUNDS MUST BE DIRECTED TO REDUCE CLASS SIZES
For immediate release:
September 2, 2020
Support Our Students calls on the provincial government to invest the funding from the federal government for safe openings into supporting smaller class sizes in Alberta public schools. We also call for detailed accountability of how the funds are allocated and transferred to school divisions.
Smaller class sizes will allow for greater physical distancing and will result in higher quality education. The evidence is clear that physical distancing of 2 metres is critical to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in schools and in the wider community.
Medeana Moussa, Executive Director of Support Our Students explains that “persistent underfunding of public schools in Alberta has resulted in over crowded classrooms. This has always been a concern from a student learning perspective but now, in a pandemic, this neglect of our public schools is exacerbated and magnified as an emergent health issue. The Alberta government has a responsibility to use these funds to make the return to school safer for our students, our teachers and our communities while improving the quality of education and addressing this long standing problem.”
COVID-19 has widened the gap between high and low income families and has had the same disproportionate impact on students. Many families do not have the option to stay at home and engage in online learning. It is effective and equitable to invest this federal money in making schools physically safe for all in a way that will have a lasting impact on Alberta’s education system.
The Federal government announced $2 billion in support for provinces and territories last week through the Safe Return to Class Fund. Alberta will receive a maximum allotment of $264.84M in two installments, the first in September 2020 and the second in the early part of 2021. This funding would represent the most government funds Alberta schools have received during this health crisis.
Support Our Students Alberta is a non profit citizens action group advocating for universally accessible and equitable public education in Alberta. www.supportourstudents.ca
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.