I spent much of the day conversing with people on twitter regarding the provincial budget and response from the Calgary Board of Education, which seems dishonest and is disappointing. I am frustrated that the CBE chooses to manipulate facts and deceive Calgarians with respect to what the government’s budget actually means for education. I feel sorry for teachers who seem to be used as pawns for negotiation instead of the valued professionals they are. It frustrates me to no end to listen to the CBE threaten teacher layoffs when that is not what the province intended with their budget and not the best scenario for Alberta’s students.
Below is a snippet from an e-mail that was sent to me by an anonymous Calgarian who shares my frustrations with the conversation:
The province’s budget wasn’t actually that bad. I’m surprised they even kept half of AISI actually, but I’ve heard good things about it in other jurisdictions. I was a little disappointed by the elimination of the enhanced ESL (only for new immigrants who basically have never been to school and don’t speak English), and that they only put such a measly little bit into pilot programs for special needs. That special needs freeze is going on 4 years now and is getting ridiculous.
The release by the CBE was very misleading however. The province didn’t cut as much as they are making it appear. A 60 million dollar deficit… Sigh. I can’t say I’m surprised. You noticed that they will be getting 28 million for teacher increases (although they say that won’t cover it – it’s probably 29 million), and doesn’t mention teachers retiring from the top of the grid when they talk about grid increases. The $25 million in grants that were cut should therefore be cut from the programs that they were designed to be cut from (eg. AISI should go down in half because the grant was cut in half).
The CBE shouldn’t go into a deficit in order to continue things that are no longer being funded (and AISI was considered a huge waste of dollars in Calgary anyways) unless there is a clear benefit (eg. they should probably continue enhanced ESL, but should offer it in less schools and the students who really need it should go to those schools). And despite what they said, the province did increase ESL funding by 11% in response to the greater population of ESL students. It was also the CBE’s suggestion to the province that they cut class size funding at all levels except K-3 in order to save money last year, so I don’t know why they are criticizing the province for cutting Grades 4-6 class size funding when it was their idea. So, I can understand a small deficit due to this budget, but it shouldn’t be anywhere near 60 million. The CBE is trying to use the province as a scapegoat for their own mismanagement.
I find the comments by the CBE disappointing. The world is just starting to see the light at the end of the recession and times have been tough; we can’t just keep giving more and more. In my opinion, the CBE needs to tighten its belt just like everybody else. It can do this by reducing targeted programs and finding better and more efficient ways of doing business. It shouldn’t, however, hold teachers, parents and students hostage by threatening to cut teachers. And the CBE should engage with Calgarians honestly. I expect better!