Have you heard this one before? Another round of province good cop, reluctant school board bad cop happened yesterday. Good cop Premier Ed Stelmach announced $550 million for new school construction and renovation just as reluctant bad cop Edmonton Public School Board became the latest school board to announce major staff layoffs (the board is facing a $14 million shortfall). You read that right, the province is announcing the construction of new classrooms while teachers will be laid off.
I have two main thoughts to share on this issue:
1) This is a symptom of bad provincial government planning. It is nothing new for the provincial government to take the credit for good announcements while school boards that are almost wholly funded by the province are forced to make the tough decisions about staffing. What makes this particularly interesting for Edmonton is that Education Minister Dave Hancock is also the “political minister” responsible for our city. Minister Hancock’s website describes him as ‘Edmonton’s voice in Alberta’s future.” These kind of education cuts make me question just how strong “Edmonton’s voice” is at the cabinet table these days.
2) This is a growth issue. As tackled in yesterday’s post, municipal and school board infrastructure and resources are being stretched to new limits because of the constantly growing urban sprawl pushing our city outwards. Until we get serious about how we want our cities to grow, and what we want our communities to look like in 20, 30, or 40 years, our school boards will keep on running up against these types of funding challenges. All students should have equal access to quality education, including facilities with proper staffing of teachers and non-teaching staff, regardless of the postal code they live in.
Unfortunately, as demonstrated this week we do not have elected officials at the provincial level, who are willing to participate those difficult conversations about the way our municipalities are growing.
Parents from Holyrood School are holding a rally at the Alberta Legislature on May 29 at 12noon. Parents from this school are calling on Minister Hancock to not “drop the ball” on their children’s education.