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.