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Leader of the Opposition questions Minister of Education on cutbacks to education funding

November 29, 2009

The following is copied from the November 25, 2009 printed transcripts of the Legislative debate and discussion.

 

Dr. Swann (Calgary-Mountain View Lib): Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

With the government considering massive cuts, stakeholder groups have

been speaking out for public education, only to receive a scolding by the

Minister of Education. But teachers, school trustees, and parents are not

to blame. They’re not to blame for creating a climate of fear around

education. The actions of the minister are creating a climate of fear.

To the Premier. School boards and trustees are fighting for our

children’s education. This is commendable. Why is the government

chastising them?

 

Mr. Hancock (Edmonton-Whitemud PC): Mr. Speaker, I don’t

believe the government is chastising anybody. The Minister of Education

yesterday indicated that we have the most robust prebudget consultation

that has ever happened with school boards in this province leading up to a

new budget. What I said to the school board trustees yesterday and what

I said to the ATA before is that it would be preferable if they

engaged in a more positive way to engage the public positively about

education. I have never used numbers in the discussion in terms of

budget cuts. That is a number that the ATA made up and is using

for their advertising process. All I’m saying is that I don’t need

10,000 of exactly the same e-mail to tell me that people care about

education in this province. People do care about education in this

province.

 

Dr. Swann: Well, Mr. Speaker, no good deed goes unpunished.

Unlike this government, school boards know how to balance their

budgets. How can the Premier defend raiding the school boards’

savings and now threatening drastic cuts?

 

Mr. Stelmach: Mr. Speaker, school boards in the province of

Alberta have accumulated roughly 400 and some million dollars’

worth of surpluses in their budgets. The minister has met with them

and asked, as we proceed with budgeting for the next year, that we

may have to go to them and ask them to use some of their surpluses

that they have accumulated over the years and keep any reductions

in staffing or anything out of the classroom. I think it’s a very

reasonable ask, and most school boards that I talked to thought it

was a reasonable approach.

 

Dr. Swann: Mr. Speaker, if the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s

estimate of $340 million in cuts is, quote, greatly exaggerated, as

your minister has claimed, then Mr. Premier, why not simply level

with Albertans by saying how much you’re planning to cut?

 

Mr. Hancock: Mr. Speaker, the budgeting process is an ongoing

process. It hasn’t come to a finite conclusion. It’s totally imprudent,

in my view – and I think the school boards share this; we’ve just

spent all morning talking about how we go forward – to start from

numbers and figure out what you want to do. What you really need

to do is start with: what are the outcomes that you want to achieve?

Then apply the resources you have to make sure you achieve them.

That’s what school boards are engaged with me in doing. (2035 – 2036)

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