The provincial body representing parents will need to look at restructuring efficiencies and innovates solution in order to continue serving its members after provincial funding to the Alberta School Councils’ Association (ASCA) was decimated.
Brandi Rai, president, Alberta School
On Nov. 12, ASCA received a letter from Alberta Education indicating that its annual provincial grant has been reduced to $170,000 — a 75 per cent decrease from previous years.
The ministry’s mid-November letter was a surprise to the ASCA board of directors, who are also parent volunteers.
“We operated in good faith, servicing hundreds of school councils in a challenging time,” said ASCA president Brandi Rai in a Nov. 19 news release.
She added that, at no time did the government ever indicate that such a massive funding cut was coming.
“We believe there was a missed opportunity [for us] to be part of the solution,” Rai said.
The voice of parents could be considerably muted this year due to the cut, says Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling,
“I hear the government often say they value the voice of parents,” Schilling said. “This decision makes me wonder if they really do believe what they say. Actions speak louder than words.”
ASCA plays a pivotal role in providing resources, training and supports to the various school councils, ensuring they are equipped to operate effectively in their legislated role, Schilling said.
Schilling said the ATA and ASCA have always enjoyed a valuable and productive working relationship advocating for the common goals that parents and teachers have in education.
“This cut will dramatically alter the operations and advocacy work of ASCA, which provides professional development opportunities for our school councils,” said Schilling.
Currently, ASCA, the ATA and other education stakeholders meet regularly with the minister to discuss the government’s COVID response and potential improvements to the return-to-school plan.
“It’s important for parents and teachers to discuss and share our common beliefs around public education,” Schilling said. “I’m worried what the fallout of these recent developments might be.”
The ATA and ASCA have worked together on several projects in the past, most recently a letter-writing initiative to MLAs on the issue of increasing class size.
“ASCA was instrumental in the execution of this successful campaign,” Schilling said. “The ministry’s clawback of funds will severely impact the way school councils can advocate on behalf of parents, teachers and principals in the future.”
In the Nov. 12 letter, the education minister assured ASCA that the nearly $500,000 cut from its grant would go directly to supporting students in the classroom. The government indicated the reasoning for the funding cut was to bring ASCA in line with the funding levels of other similar educational organizations.
School councils are legislated through the Education Act and exist to provide parents the opportunity to work with teachers and school administration to enhance learning. ❚