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.