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Ms Notley 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.

 

Ms Notley (Edmonton-Strathcona ND): Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Albertans have witnessed first-hand the devastation when this government

begins sharpening its knife. It’s no wonder, then, that school trustees speak

out when the government starts to talk about cutting their budget. But the

Minister of Education wants them to shut their mouths and let him

control what they say to the public, and he told them so yesterday.

How dare the minister scold democratically elected school trustees

for doing their job and defending the education system?

 

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

suggest that the hon. member go to http://www.davehancock.ca and read

what I actually said before she forms a question that postulates what I

didn’t say.

 

What I did say to school board trustees is that I had engaged them

this year in the most extensive prebudget consultation they’ve ever

had, in a positive discussion about looking through the lens of: are

we doing the right things, and are we doing them in the right way?

When we’re saying that we’re doing the right things, are we

achieving the outcomes we want to achieve? We ought to be able to

look at everything we do to determine whether or not it’s helping us

to achieve our outcomes. They’re all engaged in that process.

 

What I was concerned about was whether or not when they signed

on to an ad campaign about stopping the cuts – and don’t get me

wrong. I love the engagement of Albertans in discussing education

and its importance. But when they engage in that process, did they

use public money that ought to be going to the classroom?

 

Ms Notley: Well, Mr. Speaker, I actually have a copy of what the

minister said yesterday, so I did actually read it. This minister’s if

you can’t say something nice, don’t say something at all approach is

not only profoundly condescending; it also serves to oppress any

form of democratic debate.

 

Now, we’ve seen it all before. When Lyle Oberg was challenged,

his response was to send in the auditors. This government thinks

that school trustees work for them, not for the people who elected

them. How can this minister be so arrogant as to think it’s appropriate

to lecture and intimidate elected officials who are working to

ensure that our children receive a decent education?

 

Mr. Hancock: Mr. Speaker, I just met with the school board chairs

and superintendents this morning, all morning, talking, again, in the

process of discussion about what we need to do and how we can do

it better and how we can do it collaboratively. Not one of them was

intimidated by me; I can assure you of that. They all engaged in a

very frank, open, and honest discussion. Not one backed away from

the challenge to discuss education in a forward-thinking, robust,

optimistic manner about what we can do to make sure that every

child in this province has an opportunity to succeed to the best of

their abilities. That’s what we’re engaged in. It’s not patronizing.

It’s open, honest, frank discussion about what’s important.

 

Ms Notley: Well, Mr. Speaker, despite what the minister says,

Alberta school trustees obviously don’t believe the government is

listening to their concerns, and the only way they could get the

government’s attention was by launching the Stop the Cuts campaign.

Frankly, if the minister got 10,000 e-mails, I hope to

goodness that he’s finally getting the message. Rather than listening

to their message, why did the minister choose to scold and bully and

to get them to toe the Conservative line?

 

Mr. Hancock: Mr. Speaker, over the course of this year we’ve

engaged in Inspiring Education: A Dialogue with Albertans. It has

been a process that has been going on for a full year of consultation

with trustees, with parents, with teachers, and with the public. We

had setting the direction for children with special needs, in which we

engaged with trustees, with teachers, with school boards, with the

public. We’ve had the School Act review. We’re engaging with

trustees, with the public, with school boards, with teachers. We now

have, as I said before several times today, the most robust prebudget

discussion that we’ve ever had in this province on education about

how we go forward with the resources we have to achieve the

outcomes we need to achieve. There can’t be any more honest,

open, frank, and responsive approach that I can think of. It’s taken

all of my time this year. (2040)

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