Wildrose leader quizzes government on standardized testing
Alberta’s legislative assembly reconvened Oct. 31 for its fall sitting. Here are highlights of the education issues raised in question period and other proceedings between Oct. 31 and Nov. 10, when the assembly adjourned for a constituency week.
Oral question period, Oct. 31– Nov. 10
In posing questions on Alberta Education’s closure of the Cold Lake Trinity Christian School Association, Wildrose Leader Brian Jean asked Premier Rachel Notley why “interim measures” weren’t taken to avoid closure of the school. Notley noted that while the government does support parents’ ability to choose their child’s form of education, it would be irresponsible to allow children to continue to attend places where public dollars that are dedicated to their education are not getting to them.
Noting that nearly one-third of Alberta’s home-school population attend school under this school board, Jean pressed Notley on whether the same actions would have been taken upon a public school board. Education Minister David Eggen rose and repeated Notley’s message that it is incumbent upon government to ensure that public money is spent in a transparent manner and that the children affected may continue their studies with another affiliate. Later on in the same question period, Eggen reiterated the government’s support for home-schooling by providing funding of $1,670 per student.
On Nov. 1, Eggen again responded to questions from opposition members about home-schooling in terms of the impacts on families affected by the shutdown of the Cold Lake Trinity Christian School Association.
On Nov. 1, Ric McIver (PC— Calgary-Hays) asked Premier Rachel Notley to commit to her promise to not lay off or reduce hours of teachers and nurses during this term of office. Notley responded that there will be “no layoffs, absolutely no layoffs. We will not go back to the slash-and-burn cuts of the 1990s.”
Wildrose Leader Brian Jean posed student assessment questions to Premier Rachel Notley, noting that one-quarter of Grade 6 students and one-third of Grade 9 students are failing their PATs, and Grade 12 math scores are also on the decline. He asked if the government intends to scrap standardized testing. Notley responded, “One of the things that we’re not going to scrap is thousands of teachers. To be clear, if the member opposite takes $2 billion out of operational revenue, which they plan to do, that’s exactly what will happen.” She noted that the education curriculum review survey is underway and that it offers an opportunity for all Albertans to provide input.
New school construction
Thomas Dang (ND—Edmonton South West) asked Education Minister David Eggen for an update on school capital projects, including how many new schools have opened this fall. Eggen replied that 32 new schools and modernizations were completed, benefiting about 22,000 students. Seventeen additional projects are expected to reach completion by the end of the year. He added that Budget 2016 put $1.9 billion into school projects.
Introduction of bills
Health Minister Sarah Hoffman (ND—Edmonton Glenora) introduced Bill 28, the Public Health Amendment Act, which aims to improve vaccination rates in school children by tightening the way immunization records are collected and updated.
Motions other than government motions
Sponsored by Thomas Dang (ND—Edmonton-South West), Motion 507 urges government “to take steps to increase awareness in Alberta’s schools of the effects of cyberbullying.” Agreed to unanimously on Oct. 31.
Debbie Jabbour (ND—Peace River) recognized Orange Shirt Day (Sept. 30) and the profound and lasting generational scars left by the residential school system.
Glenn van Dijken (W— Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock) highlighted the Wildrose education policy that affirms the party’s commitment to parental choice and parental rights.
Bob Turner (ND—Edmonton-Whitemud) made a statement about the opening of Nellie Carlson School and the contributions that the school’s namesake has made to the community.
Angela Pitt (W—Airdrie) made a statement regarding the Court of Queen’s Bench temporary injunction to halt the government’s decision to cancel the accreditation of Trinity Christian School Association and the Wisdom Home Schooling Society.
Thomas Dang (ND—Edmonton-South West) made a statement about the opening of three new schools in his riding: Dr. Margaret-Ann Armour School, Roberta MacAdams School and St. John XXIII School. ❚