Adriana LaGrange sat down with the ATA News for a frank discussion of her assessment of education in Alberta and her plans for the portfolio going forward.
||Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says she is committed to funding education but is also interested in exploring funding can be better targeted.
Could you briefly describe your educational background and your career prior to 2019, when you were elected to office?
I’m trained as a rehabilitative practitioner working with the mentally and physically challenged, and I worked in the field on and off while I was raising my seven children. My husband and I also own and operate the family farm. I was also a trustee with Red Deer Catholic School Division for 11 years, and for the last of those three years I was president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association and also vice-president of the Canadian Catholic School Trustees Association.
We have a long history of education excellence that I’ll be striving to improve. We’re world renowned and people see us as a leader in education and innovation.
What do you see as the big priorities and the big challenges in Alberta education over the next few years?
The priorities are being able to deliver the absolute best education possible for each and every student, given that there’s great diversity in our students’ needs and a growing population in K–12.
What do you think is working well in the public education system and where do you see room for improvements?
We have a long, proud history of 170 years of education in Alberta, with the ATA being in existence for over 100 years. So the structure, the foundation is very, very solid. We have a long history of education excellence that I’ll be striving to improve. We’re world renowned and people see us as a leader in education and innovation.
But I think there’s always room to get better, given that we have a changing demographic with a large number of English language learners that we need to engage with and provide services for. There’s also the curriculum development part that we can get moving in the right direction. It does need a critical update — I’ve been able to take the pause off and I’m excited to bring that forward, and to develop the plan on how all of the subsequent pieces will roll out.
We have the K–4 [curriculum] currently, but we need to continue the good work that the 350 plus teachers from the curriculum working group have been doing to develop the middle and high school programming. Once I hear back from my curriculum advisory panel, if there’s any enhancements to be made in the K-4, we’ll be looking at that as well. We’ve also got the ministerial order in learning that I’m looking forward to having an update provided to me that I can then take out for engagement to the general public.
There’s the funding review that I’ve currently engaged my department in, to ensure that the funding that we do have is meeting the needs of our system and if it’s not, maybe we can redirect funding to meet those needs.
With a budget to be tabled in one month, what can teachers expect to see in terms of priorities for funding education?
This government has committed to prioritizing education and we as a government really value education as an investment in our future and in our young people, as they are the future of Alberta. We’re going to continue to fund education and to build schools and the necessary infrastructure that’s needed to meet the needs of our students.
Class size and supports for inclusion are among the top concerns for teachers. How do you plan to address these issues?
I’m just getting a report on the class size audit. We’ve spent $3.3 billion over the last decade and have marginally moved the needle, if at all in some areas. And I do understand the aspect of classroom composition being an influencing factor as well. Beyond that, I do believe in having a funding review and looking at the possibilities of the way that we target our funding. We’re engaging all of our partners in that conversation on how the funding is being rolled out and is it meeting the needs. And if it isn’t meeting the needs, how can we redirect that funding so that we can meet the needs. Are there possibilities for wraparound services? So having conversations with other ministries as well.
Also, can we look at early intervention strategies that may be more effective if we front-end funding to the early years? But those are all conversations and possibilities that I’m hoping I will hear more of when we have the report back from the funding review group.
Is there anything else you would like to share with teachers and other readers of the ATA News?
I’ve been able to travel the province and I’ve been so pleased by how positive everything has been. I’ve been able to engage with school boards and parents and teachers and ATA local executive members. I’m very appreciative of the tremendous and positive work going on in education right across this province. I believe in having all the partners work together for the common good of improving student learning, and helping some of our most vulnerable succeed in life. I want to thank each and every teacher, administrator and other staff that sets children at the heart of everything that they do. I wish everyone the absolute best school year possible. ❚