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Mr. Chase questions the Minister of Education on education funding

October 30, 2009

The following is copied from the October 28, 2009, printed transcripts of the Legislative debate and discussion:

 

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

Education hypocrisy. Albertans want those in charge of directing our

public education system to adhere to high standards.  However, this

government’s approach to education continues to be: do as I say, not

as I do. Because the Ministry of Education doled out $2.5 million in

achievement bonuses this year while punishing students with cuts in

excess of $80 million, the minister owes Albertans an explanation.

Are these stratospheric bonuses intended to reward senior bureau-

crats for their ability to slash the Education budget?

 

Mr. Hancock (Edmonton-Whitemud PC): Mr. Speaker, I think I

answered the question about the $80 million the other day.  The hon.

member obviously didn’t hear the fact that none of the $80 million that

we’ve reprofiled in the Education budget has come from the classroom

or affected the students.  None of it.  We went out to the school boards

and said: you have reserves in place; we understand that you saved those

reserves for certain purposes, but we’re going to ask you this year in

the in-year adjustment – and an in-year adjustment is never an easy

thing or a fair thing to do – to take a portion of the $80 million, not

the full $80 million, a portion of the $80 million out of those

reserves, not out of the classroom, not out of teachers, not out of

students.  So the hon. member has it wrong on that account.  He also

has it wrong on other accounts, which I hope I’ll get another chance

to address.

 

Mr. Chase (Calgary-Varsity Lib): Here’s your chance, Mr. Minister.

The minister has been travelling the province, clawing back the surpluses

of school boards that tried to accountably build up their reserves.  How

can the minister preach fiscal sacrifice to our school boards when he

overspent in his own internal office budget by $2.5 million this year?

 

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

member would know from my answer the other day that of the $80 million

that we had as an in-year adjustment, we took a full $24 million directly out

of the department’s budget so that we wouldn’t have to pass as much on to

the school system: $24 million.  That’s about 20 per cent of our

budget.  The hon. member is obviously looking at one line in the

budget to see whether there has been management.  What he has got

to take a look at is the overall budget and understand that sometimes

you have to go to extra effort to make sure that all stakeholders are

part of a considered and rational process of decision-making, and

sometimes you spend some money doing that.  We do, and we don’t

apologize for it.

 

Mr. Chase (Calgary-Varsity Lib): Well, $2.5 million of overbudgeting

in your own office must have bought an awful lot of pencils and erasers.

This minister needs to finally start aligning his words with his

actions when it comes to cuts to public education.  What concrete

assurances can the minister give to students, parents, teachers, and

trustees that even more draconian classroom cuts aren’t being dreamt

up for next year’s budget?

 

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

assurance is the Minister of Infrastructure’s job, and he just announced

today that we’re going to be pouring concrete for four high schools in the

province almost right away.  We’re moving ahead to make sure that we

have schools in the right places, that we have teachers in the classrooms

for our students, and that we keep our eye on the real agenda, which is to

make sure that the students in Alberta have a good education not just

for today – world-class, by the way.  People from around the country

are coming to take a look.  I understand that just yesterday at Bishop

Grandin in Calgary were people from Australia coming to see what

a great job we’re doing here so that they can duplicate it over there.

But in response to the spending that we’re talking about, part of what

he’s talking about is the fact that we’re also looking to the horizon

to make sure that we have that great education system for tomorrow. (1608)

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