February 19th, 2020

Education funding worries loom as school year approaches

By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on August 23, 2019.

This month’s ‘At The Legislature’ column by MLA Shannon Phillips

As August comes to a close many of us are turning our minds to the upcoming school year as we get school supplies, lunch bags, and clothes ready for our return to the rhythm of school.

More than one in five residents in Lethbridge West are under 18 so I know that many of you are getting your children ready and wondering what this year will look like for our schools. Many of us are wondering, and are quite worried, about the lack of a plan for education funding from this government. Premier Kenney and his government have asked the school boards to operate without full information so programs like the school nutrition program, that fed breakfast or lunch to hundreds of students in Lethbridge every day, is at risk. The Classroom Improvement Fund has also been put in jeopardy and classrooms will have more students in them than last year. All this uncertainty has made it difficult for the school boards to plan for the years ahead. Many have turned to social media to ask for donations to keep the nutrition program running because they have seen the significant improvement it has made to attendance and school performance.

If you have concerns about the possible cuts to the nutrition grant, the Classroom Improvement fund, or the operating funds provided to our schools, then please write to me so that I can take your concerns forward to the Education Minister. We have been told that a budget will not be forthcoming until late in the fall so it will be sometime before we have details on the government’s plans to cut.

In anticipation of the late-fall budget we will be inviting people to take part in pre-budget consultations so please be sure to reach out to me if you would like to be made aware of these meetings. We hope to gather a wide number of responses throughout September.

It was my great pleasure to be able to spend some time with the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) this month at their provincial conference. Lethbridge’s own Jason Schilling has become the president of the ATA, which brings an excellent local voice for the more than 50,000 teachers in Alberta. Another local voice, Allison Pike, is president of the Alberta School Councils’ Association (ASCA), a group that advances the parents’ perspective on education issues. It has been wonderful to work with both the ATA and ASCA as they advocate for well-funded public education for all.

I was sorry to have to miss Whoop-Up Days this year but as chair of the Public Accounts committee in Alberta I was representing Alberta at the annual meeting of all the Public Accounts committees across the country.

In my absence my colleagues, MLAs Heather Sweet and David Shepherd, were able to attend the parade and some of the other local events this week. Thank you for making them feel so welcome and thanks to all the organizers who hosted another wonderful Whoop-Up Days.

As we look toward September I want to be sure you know about a few of the exciting events to watch for. First is the Big Bang Weekend at the University of Lethbridge’s new Science Building on the weekend of Sept. 13-14. This grand opening will have something for everyone so I hope to see you there.

The third week of September will be Reconciliation Week in Lethbridge and gets started with a flag raising on Sept 16. I hope you take part in many of the activities that will be available.

On the weekend of Sept. 20 and 21, the Lethbridge Public Library will hold Word on the Street 2019. At the library’s recent 100th anniversary celebration they announced that well-known artist Faye HeavyShield has been commissioned to create a new public art installation at the Piitoyiss-Eagles’ Nest space in the library. They also announced the 2019 Writer in Residence, Danika Stone, a local author and teacher. Congratulations to both women and thank you to all the speakers at the ceremony, especially Nadia and Zara Hussain, Margarita Loeppky and Sam Hirlehey, who each spoke to the valuable contribution that the Public Library had made in their lives.

Public libraries are the heart of many communities and we are so much better as a community for what ours has brought to us for a century. I look forward to your second century!

As always, please write or call me with your concerns or questions. Remember, if a family member is having a milestone birthday or anniversary we can arrange scrolls.

You can find me at the new Lethbridge West constituency office at 410 Stafford Dr. S., Suite #110 or at Lethbridge.west@assembly.ab.ca or call me at 403-329-4644.

Shannon Phillips is the NDP MLA for Lethbridge West. Her column appears monthly.

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One Response to “Education funding worries loom as school year approaches”

  1. biff says:

    start the savings by eliminating school trustees – the ed system is highly centralised. then, eliminate superintendents, again because the system is highly centralised – eliminating their ridiculously bloated salaries adds more teachers and support staff, which actually help learning. then, eliminate stupid retreats, which can either save money or add more bodies to support learning. stop building brick and mortar schools, which cost fortunes, and go to more of a simple structure approach…something along the lines of the fitness club in lethbridge. cheap to build and maintain, and rip down and rebuild when shelf life is met. time to start reducing teachers, again because the system is highly centralised: use virtual lessons, and less expensive aides and support staff to support the lessons. shorten the school week to 4 days. here, we have saved as much as half the cost of education today.