Dirks vs. The School Trustees
Posted on April 21, 2015 by Greg Clark
Yesterday, something extraordinary happened
Nineteen public school boards, including Edmonton Public Schools, Edmonton Catholic Schools, the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District issued a powerful statement about how Education Minister Gordon Dirks’ cuts to education are going to impact your kids.
"According to provincial projections, there will be 12,000 additional students in Alberta next year and approximately 36,000 over the next three years. According to the provincial fiscal plan, the growth in student population is not, and will not, be funded. By not funding growth, we are effectively reducing the per pupil funding for every student while increasing class sizes." [Emphasis added]
What’s happened is that the PCs are not providing one additional dollar for the 36,000 students that will enter into the school system over the next three years.
The school trustees, who have been slashing non-front line expenses for years, have reached their limit. They said:
"Growing districts will be forced to make reductions to support services to schools while ultimately increasing teacher workload and at the same time, reducing the support for some of our most vulnerable students. These students will be further disadvantaged by increasing class sizes." [Emphasis added]
Most school boards have been responsible stewards of your tax dollars and have built up reserves over the last few years in case of unexpected budget shortfalls.
When the school boards announced they intended to draw from their reserves to help minimize the impact to the PC cuts, Dirks wrote to them and said no. He said:
"Therefore, no expenditures, even those already planned, are to be funded through your [surplus] without prior ministerial approval,” - Metro Calgary, April 9, 2015.
Dirks now claims that the boards can access their reserves, but he hasn’t actually told them that except through a rude and insulting statement issued by his campaign yesterday. Even the Calgary Herald noticed Dirks’ sudden about face:
"Monday’s outcry prompted Education Minister Gordon Dirks to reverse his previous remarks that school boards could only tap into their reserve funds with his permission." - The Calgary Herald, April 21, 2015
And let’s fact-check the claim that Alberta school boards have excessive reserves.
For example, the reserves for the Calgary Board of Education are 3% of their annual operating budget, while the reserves for the Calgary Catholic School District are just over 1% of their annual operating budget. Maintaining a small reserve is responsible budgeting, just like Albertans do with our household finances. It’s insulting for Gordon Dirks to suggest the school boards have done anything wrong. In fact, it's the PCs who told the school boards to maintain small reserves in the first place.
We would build schools, protect our teachers and reduce class sizes.
The Alberta Party would:
- Reverse the PCs’ cuts to education and guarantee per-student funding to match population growth and inflation;
- Invest in new schools to keep pace with Alberta’s population growth;
- Phase out school fees; and
- Reduce taxpayer subsidies to private schools that do not serve the public interest.
The PCs and Dirks are playing politics with our kids’ education and it has to stop. The only way for this to end is to get a new minister of Education Minister. The voters in Calgary Elbow can make that happen by marking an x beside “Clark” on May 5." -Greg Clark, Alberta Party Leader
The Alberta Party has a better way.