Below are highlights of education and labour issues raised in the Alberta legislature from Nov. 26 to Dec. 5.
K–4 draft curriculum
Nov. 26—Mark Smith (UCP—Drayton Valley—Devon) asked Education Minister David Eggen when the government will release the instructional materials for the K–4 draft curriculum and also where the materials are coming from. Eggen answered that government is very proud of the new curriculum, and it is the field testing process that allows for building content and fleshing out the curriculum.
CBE construction costs
Nov. 27 and 28—Ric McIver (UCP—Calgary—Hays) asked Infrastructure Minister Sandra Jansen why government is forcing the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) to “dig into their reserves” and incur $1.7 million in interest charges to build new schools. Jansen responded that when she shared a bench with him, he was not at all concerned that boards had to use reserve funds, and that this government cares about schools and children. McIver asked Education Minister David Eggen if the government would reimburse the interest costs to the CBE, to which Eggen responded that government has financed 240 school projects and is working hard to make sure they get what they need as opposed to the opposition, who would cut 4,000 teachers.
Carbon levy and education costs
Nov. 27—Mark Smith (UCP—Drayton Valley—Devon) asked Education Minister David Eggen how much class sizes and bus ride times could be improved if schools were not subject to the carbon tax, noting that High Prairie School Division could have paid for another teacher if not for the carbon tax. Eggen responded that Alberta’s climate action plan involves an opportunity for people to learn and understand climate change and the impact on the next generation. This includes schools, and that’s why government is building more energy-efficient schools, using solar panels etc. Eggen added that there is always room for improvements to student transportation, particularly in rural areas, and consultations are underway to look for efficiencies. Smith asked if government would exempt schools and school boards from the carbon tax, as oil and gas drillers are. Eggen answered that government is helping schools by saving millions of dollars by building new energy efficient schools to a LEED silver standard, and not making cuts
Social studies curriculum redesign
Dec. 4—Mark Smith (UCP—Drayton Valley—Devon) asked Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt about the recent resignation of a member of the curriculum redesign group, calling the redesign process “flawed.” Schmidt answered that government is sorry that the member resigned but won’t make apologies for doing a curriculum update. Smith continued by asking what the “real” reason is for redesigning the social studies curriculum. Schmidt answered that Alberta is still teaching about the Soviet Union as if it still existed, an update was long past due, and the past government refused to do it when given the chance. He concluded by stating that the social studies curriculum will be updated to “reflect the current realities of the world that our students live in today so that they’re better prepared to engage in the democratic processes of their communities, their province and their country.”
Gay–straight alliances in schools
Dec. 5—Rick Fraser (AP—Calgary—South East) asked Education Minister David Eggen about a recent incident where a child was taken off school grounds by an adult not affiliated with the school without the parents’ awareness, and if his ministry is considering the development of standardized policies around GSAs, what activities are acceptable, and what activities are not appropriate without parental notification. Eggen answered that GSAs are support clubs in schools, while field trips are a separate issue that is dealt with by a separate policy. Fraser asked for a specific example of how the minister is working with school boards to foster an open sharing of LGBTQ students along with their parents and families. Eggen answered that all public school boards in Alberta, all Catholic, francophone, charter and the vast majority of private schools have built their own safe and caring policies, with faith-based principles built right into them if they chose to do so. He concluded by stating that, “if you take public money for schools… You must follow the law just like anybody else.” ❚