A couple of weeks ago, I attended an all candidates meeting with the Parkland Regional School Division Board of Trustees. Including me, there were representatives from five parties. We discussed infrastructure, long-term planning & curriculum development, among other things.
With that, let's talk education...
As the "grown ups", the people in charge, we're responsible for the stewardship of public education. We must vociferously champion it, properly fund it and protect it from the vagaries of partisan politics. Too often, politicians take office and make wholesale changes to things that were working well just to "put their stamp on it".
Questions have been asked about how infrastructure spending should be allocated. Many schools are bursting at the seams and populations continue to increase. We need a plan for new schools to accommodate growth. The Alberta Party believes in a priority-based infrastructure plan which would see new facilities built where the need is greatest.
That's part of long-term planning. Lots of people use the term "predictable" when it comes to funding and budgets. When the fortunes of our province are so securely tied to the ebb & flow of the non-renewable energy sector, predictability isn't predictable. I prefer the term stable or surefire. Funding for education must be as certain as turning on your tap and knowing the water will flow. We need to collaborate with stakeholders on a new funding model for education.
While the conversation about funding will never be complete, I can't NOT talk about the recently revealed stats on per student funding. Alberta's per student funding is the lowest in the country. Wait. What!? That's right. The acknowledged "economic engine" of the country has the lowest per student funding. THAT MUST CHANGE!
This is also a good time to discuss private & charter schools. Did you know that, in addition to the "trophy" for the lowest per student funding, Alberta also gets the trophy for being the ONLY province in the country that funds charter schools? They call them "alternative schools"; they're really private schools that benefit from public funding. In 21/22, there were 197 private schools, 129 of which received provincial funding. The current government committed some $149M over 3 years to expand and/or enhance charter school facilities. I'm left wondering what that money could do for per student funding. The Alberta Party would freeze funding to private and charter schools and conduct a thorough review of their impact on public education in our province.
Now, curriculum and class sizes. I've heard it said the roll-out of the new curriculum was botched. Would that were it's only problem. Curriculum should be developed by subject matter experts in collaboration with teachers and psychologists whose experience would inform not only what gets taught, but how. To exclude these stakeholders from that conversation is a disservice to the students. This stakeholder group would be charged with creating a non-partisan curriculum based on best practices.
A word about class sizes: too big. Okay, that's two words. Still accurate. The Alberta Party recommends the following class sizes be adopted: K to 3 - 17, 4 to 6 - 23, 7 to 9 - 25 and 10 to 12 - 27. We'd also commit to identifying learning challenges in pre-school children and properly funding the assistance they need to succeed.
There's so much more but I want to address the need for access to mental health supports for students. The pandemic has left many with lasting psychological impacts, not to mention the number of students diagnosed with mental health challenges pre-Covid. There must be access to in-school supports and therapy.
To close, the Alberta Party is committed to properly funded PUBLIC EDUCATION, with a curriculum that provides a broad foundation in fundamentals, including technology, and fosters an appreciation for diversity, both in culture and opinions.
I feel like I ranted again, so /rant.
What's on the Ballot? Part 4 hits news stands tomorrow.