By Letter to the Editor on June 13, 2020.
To the Government of Alberta:
Right now, educators in Alberta are facing two major crises.
The first of these is global: the impact of COVID-19. Those of us who have not lost our livelihood are grateful for our jobs. Nevertheless, educators are having to change everything about their work. They are redesigning classes, rethinking assessments, grappling with uncertainty, and trying to guide their students remotely in unprecedented times.
At the University of Lethbridge, Fall 2020 classes will again be online. We understand this decision, although the challenges to us, our students and the administration are enormous. Educators must be innovative, invested, and patient. Meanwhile, our students’ plans and education are in upheaval, as face-to-face, hands-on and co-op learning are shelved. Students are anxious and uncertain. We are, too. But like educators across the province, we will do our utmost to preserve our mission: fostering learning to the very best of our ability. It is, after all, through education that new doors will open for Albertans in the world after COVID-19.
The second crisis educators are facing is budgetary. Education in Alberta is experiencing the largest cuts in our history. The University of Lethbridge will see cuts of $10.5 million between 2019 and 2021 (9.8 per cent of grant funding); in the following three years between 15 and 40 per cent of our funding is at risk. These cuts were decided before COVID-19 and the downturn in oil prices, and have not be revisited. In March, Alberta’s K-12 educators suffered a sudden $128-million cut, just when teachers were stepping up to implement at-home learning. Many educational institutions, like U of L, are still reeling from severe cuts in 2013. These new and deeper cuts do not trim excess spending; they are utterly debilitating to our mission of accessible, high-quality education.
On one hand, we are being asked to bring out the best in ourselves as educators, to adapt everything we do in the face of a global pandemic. On the other, the material and moral support for this effort is being cut with unprecedented severity. One of these crises is beyond anyone’s control. The other is in the hands of our government.
I urge the Alberta government to stop the multi-year cuts to education, and to listen to those who are building the future of our province: the youth and workers who are seeking to learn, and the educators whose mission is to help them.
Associate Professor of French, Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics
University of Lethbridge