K-12 Educating the Kids – Election Issue 2019

“I used to get mad at my school –  The teachers who taught me weren’t cool – You’re holding me down – Turning me round – Filling me up with your rules. John Lennon 

We Albertans really value education for our little darlings!

Education has been at the forefront of the NDP political agenda in the past two years:

  • They designated legislation capping school fees as Bill One of the Spring session. (Bill One designation signals a the top priority of government each session)

  • They focussed funding on building new schools and renovations

  • They prioritized re-writing k -12 curriculum and are revising the School Act

So the NDP will run on a track record of supporting the students and their parents!

K-12 education is an $8.2 billion dollar big ticket item. Revenue from property taxes and fees cover about $3.1 billion. The remaining $5 billion along with another $1.5 billion on capital spending are part of government’s $54.5 billion dollar budget. (Readers are reminded government revenue is expected to be about $44.0 billion leaving us with a nasty deficit.)

Here is the “She said – They said” (NDP versus conservatives) that Severely Normal Albertans will hear at election time:

School Fees

SHE SAID –

  • Parents of 600,000 students will benefit form the freeze on school supplies.

  • Parents of 145,000 students will benefit for the freeze on bus pass costs.

THEY SAID – The opposition will point out:

  • the cost of these programs $30 million add to the deficit, many parents can afford the fees

  • This is another example of the NDP throwing money at a problem that doesn’t exist

  • The freeze hurts school boards trying to manage the revenue side of their budgets.

School Building Construction

SHE SAID –

  • As of September 2017 there were 53 new schools or modernizations completed

  • 21,600 new students spaces have been created

  • 15,000 students will benefit from modernized buildings

  • Building schools during a downturn creates construction jobs and gets government good prices

THEY SAID –

  • The overall cost of the education department is increasing year over year and into the future

  • Deficits and long term debt will jeopardize the future of these students

School Curriculum

SHE SAID –

  • The major overhaul of curriculum will cover six major subject areas — arts, language arts, math, social studies, science, and wellness

  • 300 teachers are involved as volunteers and 25,000 parents responded to an online survey

  • Topics like climate change, indigenous and francophone issues and gender identity have been ignored previously 

  • Some of the subjects are very dated – The elementary science was last revised in 1996. The Math 31 calculus stuff is 21 years old. K-12 social studies curriculum was last revised in 2005.

THEY SAID

  • The NDP are inserting their philosophical bias into the curriculum (example-  teaching activism versus history in indigenous studies)

  • The focus should be on getting ‘back to basics’. For example. reversing the long term decline in math skills. Some math experts blame ‘new discovery math’ for the unfortunate decline

  • The cost of the sweeping overhaul is expensive (estimated at $64 million).

Debt and Deficit

SHE SAID

  • Investing in education is vital for the future

  • most of the money goes to the front-lines through school divisions

  • school construction have been delayed by previous governments

  • If elected, the opposition parties will slash and burn education budgets.

THEY SAID

  • NDP created a provincial debt burden that these students will have to shoulder

  • Unaffordable budget increases continue year over year with “no plan to live within our means”

  • NDP attempt to cap costs to parents is a short term fix that is harmful to the system and will ultimate rebound on parents.

What you have to believe for the NDP to succeed on this issue:

  • Voters will appreciate the spending and agenda the NDP offer.  Parents will be grateful for new schools and lower student fees for books and transportation
  • The NDP’s criticism of budget austerity measures proposed by other parties gets traction
  • Voters will be supportive or at least not fearful of the changes to the curriculum
  • Key interest groups (key school board and parent groups indigenous people, LGBTQ interests) show up at the polls in large numbers.

    What you have to believe for conservatives to succeed on this issue:

  • The overall the need for strong austerity measures becomes the defining issue of 2019 campaign
  • Concerns about the NDP torquing the curriculum towards “socialist” ideas (perhaps with concrete examples) are persuasive to voters
  • The conservative platform identifies education as an important priority and the budget reduction plans will not be hugely problematic to quality of education experience.

The 2017 Budget

Revenue

Property taxes $2.4 Billion

Other $0.7 Billion

Total Revenue $3.1 Billion

Expenses

Instruction $6.0 Billion

Operations an M $0.75 Billion

Student Trans $0.35 Billion

Facilities $0.38 Billion

Private schools $0.26 Billion

Everything else $0.46 Billion

Total $8.2 Billion

Deficit 5.1 Billion

Capital Budget 1.5 Billion

All in deficit $6.6 Billion