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We have a new home!

February 23, 2010

The PSBAA’s Legislature Watch blog has a new home! It is now hosted on the PSBAA’s website at http://legwatchblog.public-schools.ab.ca

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Mr. Chase tables petition urging the provincial government to provide increased funding to the Midway School

February 18, 2010

The following is copied from the February 17, 2010 printed transcripts of the Legislative debate and discussion.

Mr. Chase (Calgary-Varsity Lib): Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Having sought the proper approval of Parliamentary Counsel, I am

retabling this petition, which states:

We the undersigned residents of Alberta, petition the Legislative

Assembly to urge the Government of Alberta to consider providing

increased funding to Midway School to ensure that various programs

continue to be available to its students, teachers, trustees and

parents.

It comes from parents of Didsbury, Carstairs, and Crossfield.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (154)

Mr. Jacobs questions Minister of Education about school board funding levels

February 18, 2010

The following is copied from the February 17, 2010 printed transcripts of the Legislative debate and discussion.

Mr. Jacobs (Cardston-Taber-Warner PC): Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Our rural school board in my constituency is facing an $850,000 shortfall in

the 2010-11 school year despite the announcements by the Minister of Education

that school boards will receive a zero per cent increase. I don’t know if

zero per cent is an entirely correct figure as I have heard that school

boards will in fact receive an overall budget decrease of over 4.17

per cent, 1.17 per cent in 2009-10 and approximately 3 per cent in

2010-11, due to the lack of funding for this government’s negotiated

settlement with the ATA. My question to the Minister of Education:

when will the government provide the funding for the agreement that

they negotiated?

Mr. Hancock (Edmonton-Whitemud PC): Well, Mr. Speaker, first

of all, in this budget this year – and we’ll go into it more during estimates – we

have provided the same amount for school boards as last year, no increase in

budgets overall, although there will be some adjustments between school

boards based on the number of students they have, based on

increased enrolment, based on changes in transportation, and based

on changes in the class size funding.

With respect to salaries the member is absolutely correct. There

are agreements in place with the ATA locals which provide for an

adjustment based on average weekly earnings, and we’ve had an

arbitrated process.

The Speaker: The hon. member.

Mr. Jacobs: Thank you. Again to the Minister of Education.

Because of the budget shortfall boards will have to make significant

cuts to staffing in the upcoming year and will face public outcry as

the current information does not indicate the deficit created by the

government’s lack of commitment to the agreement with the ATA.

Question: why did the government fail to budget for teachers’ salary

increases at the more prudent figure of 5.9 per cent?

Mr. Hancock: Well, Mr. Speaker, the average weekly earnings

index at the end of 2008 was 4.82 per cent. At the end of March

Stats Canada changed the way they calculated the index, and that

change resulted in the 5.99 figure. That was not something we could

budget for because the budget was already prepared. However, there

was also a dispute with respect to interpretation as to whether the

index should be what they had previously calculated or what they

changed it to. We went through an arbitrated process. We didn’t

win that, unfortunately, so now we have an index that’s certain, but

we haven’t budgeted the money for it.

The Speaker: The hon. member.

Mr. Jacobs: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again to the same minister.

In addition to the shortfall due to the government’s salary settlement

with the ATA, boards will also face increased costs for support staff,

benefits, grid movement, and increases due to inflation. Without

additional funding in the current budget school boards will be forced

to either make significant program and staff cuts or submit deficit

budgets. Question to the minister: does the minister envision school

boards submitting deficit budgets to maintain the current educational

programs being offered to students in Alberta?

Mr. Hancock: Well, the good news, Mr. Speaker, is that school

boards across this province are in great financial shape. There are

close to $360 million in operating reserves. Yes, those monies have

been saved for specific purposes, but they’re in good shape to

manage through this year. I’ve asked school boards to bear with us.

We now have the arbitration in place, so we know the index that

we’re dealing with. I will have to work with the ATA and the

Alberta School Boards Association school boards with respect to the

salary issue over a longer term process so that we can make them

whole over a longer term if we can’t in the short term. In the

meantime they have the resources in their operating reserves. (150 – 151)

Ms Calahasen celebrates reading milestone (reading and sharing 1.5 million stories) at CJ Schurter School in her riding

February 18, 2010

The following is copied from the February 17, 2010 printed transcripts of the Legislative debate and discussion.

Ms Calahasen (Lesser Slave Lake PC): Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It took 15 years, a whole lot of staff members, the librarian, thousands of

students, parents, and community volunteers from C.J. Schurter school in

Slave Lake to reach their goal, and their goal was to read and share 1,500,000

stories. There is something very special about being able to pinpoint

the exact moment when we reach a goal. At exactly 9:40 a.m. on

Monday, March 16, 2009, C.J. Schurter school did exactly that,

recorded their reading milestone.

This all began when librarian Marge Rennick and her committee

organized a student reading incentive to celebrate the then 1994

Arctic Winter Games in Slave Lake. Students were encouraged to

read for Rocky, the Arctic Winter Games mascot. However, in

September 1994 special ed teacher Helen Ord and her team of

educational assistants took this initial concept and developed it into

a powerful reading link between home and school that enhanced

early literacy skills.

In September 1996 the Reading Cottage was introduced. Students

were encouraged to bring their completed reading sheets down to the

cottage, where staff would then write the child’s name on a square

located on the specific story character they were reading at the time.

Now, Snow White, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Wizard of Oz, Winnie

the Pooh and friends, Franklin and friends, and Muppets, just to

name a few, lined the hallways at C.J. Schurter, containing the

names of all the special students that have participated in this

program.

However, in September 2004 the program moved from the special

ed area to each individual classroom. Teachers and students

recorded the stories read in the classroom and reported the number

of experiences at each assembly.

It is common wisdom that literature expands our perspective of

the world. In the words of Dr. Seuss: “The more that you read, the

more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places

you’ll go.”

Congratulations to the visionaries and the whole community for

nurturing reading as a great experience. Keep up the great work. (145)

Mr. Drysdale discusses new schools in Grande Prairie

February 18, 2010

The following is copied from the February 17, 2010 printed transcripts of the Legislative debate and discussion.

Mr. Drysdale (Grande Prairie-Wapiti PC): Thank you, Mr.

Speaker. Today I’m pleased to rise and congratulate students, staff,

and parents at three Grande Prairie and area schools. On January 18

I attended with the Minister of Education and the Minister of

Infrastructure the official school openings of the Hythe regional school

and the Alexander Forbes school, which have been newly renovated, and

the newly built Mother Teresa Catholic school.

Grande Prairie is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities, and these

three schools will help meet the needs of our growing population.

We want to provide students with a place that they look forward to

going to every day and a place that inspires and supports learning.

The two renovated facilities were not only refurbished but wired

and equipped with the latest learning technologies. They have more

natural light, improved acoustics, and enhanced connectivity. These

classrooms look like permanent classrooms, but they give school

boards the flexibility to respond quickly and easily to changing

enrolment and community needs.

I noticed with pride that these new and newly refurbished schools

demonstrate our government’s commitment to providing safe and

secure learning environments for our children. They are great

examples of how government and communities work together.

Since these schools have opened, they have already become hubs of

their communities, providing after-hours recreational opportunities

and places to play and pursue active living. They are all top-quality

schools that meet the growing, changing community needs in

Grande Prairie and area. Projects such as these help advance our

Premier’s vision for strong, safe, and vibrant communities. They are

a good investment in the future of our children and this province.

Once again, I would like to extend my congratulations to the

students, staff, and parents at Hythe regional school, Alexander

Forbes school, and Mother Teresa Catholic school.

Thank you. (145)

Mr. Kang, in response to the Speech from the Throne, questions the government’s vision for education

February 17, 2010

The following is copied from the February 16, 2010 printed transcripts of the Legislative debate and discussion.

Mr. Kang (Calgary-McCall Lib): … The [Speech from the Throne] talks

about a new vision for education, but the only thing Albertans know about

this administration’s vision for education is that you keep saying you have

a vision for education. Why not provide Albertans with something more

concrete? Why haven’t you reported back on the Inspiring Education

dialogue? Why did you pull the new School Act from the agenda for this

spring sitting? Is it because you’re starting to realize that your vision for

education isn’t the same as the vision shared by most Albertans?

[Remarks in Punjabi] I don’t see a vision for education from this

administration, just another collection of wrong decisions. It was

wrong to violate the contract with teachers and then fight and lose

the case in court. The Minister of Education’s response to the

ongoing teachers’ wage issue has been less than inspiring. He was

obviously completely unprepared for a verdict that favoured the

teachers. [As submitted]

It was wrong to claw back $80 million from Alberta’s public

school boards. Can Alberta’s students and parents expect even

greater cuts? It is wrong to cut education funding, our primary

investment in our future. By all means look for efficiencies, but

ensure stable, dependable funding for this vital public program. It

is wrong to fire the school board without exhausting all avenues of

understanding and board support. It is wrong that we have an

administration whose only response to social challenges faced by

aboriginal communities is to fire their local school board.

A short, simple message repeated by many Calgarians has made

its way to our offices. “Alberta’s continued prosperity will depend

on the knowledge and skills of its future citizens. In these times

more than ever it is important to continue to invest in our children’s

education.” … (127)

Mr. Chase tables a program from Calgary Catholic School District’s 125th anniversary

February 17, 2010

The following is copied from the February 16, 2010 printed transcripts of the Legislative debate and discussion.

Mr. Chase (Calgary-Varsity Lib): Thank you very much. I have

three sets of tablings. The first is the program from An Evening to

Celebrate Catholic Education: 125 Years of Calgary Catholic. Mr.

Speaker, as a former teacher you would have been terrifically impressed

by the talent shown by the Catholic youngsters of Calgary…

… Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (122)