Category: First Term (2010-2013)

Fairness and equity for Alberta Public Schools

On Tuesday March 6th I moved the following notice of motion to be debated at our March 21st meeting.

Be it resolved that the Edmonton Public School Board advocate to the Government of Alberta to develop a framework to ensure Public schools get a fair and equitable share of schools, modernizations, portables, and capital project spending. 

  1. All schools, portables modernizations, and capital funding to Public and Catholic schools are  awarded by the provincial government.
  2. We lack transparent policy from the provincial government how schools are prioritized and awarded between different school districts.
  3. Public students and families across Alberta– especially in Edmonton– need their fair and equitable share of capital funding– especially for new schools
  4. Despite only 25% of Albertans being Catholic, the government appears to provide them an unfair and inequitable amount of school dollars, sometimes between 30-50%.
  5. Fairness and equity in transparent, defensible provincial decision-making would prevent unreasonably advantaging one group over another.


As Alberta spends $3.5Billion over the next five yearsfair and equitable process  is essential. Education’s needs are looked at in the context of the infrastructure needs of other government ministries, so naturally we need to make sure schools are rationed in a fair and equitable way.

No school district is having their needs fully-met, but some districts appear to be seeing their needs met slightly more. Edmonton public parents and community members need to know that our board and fulfill our fiduciary and moral duty to public education.

Does this seem fair?

Depending on the years, the inequity might be worse. For example, looking at modernizations in 2006: 36% of the funding went to the Catholic District while 64% went to the Public District. There were years when no schools were awarded so new schools should not be the only metric considered, It appears previous governments have let down public education families and the current government needs to rapidly course-correct. In September 2016: three public and two Catholic schools opened. 40% went to the Catholic district. In September 2017:  11 new public schools are under construction and Five new Edmonton Catholic schools. 32% of funding went to the Catholic district.

According to the province’s own 2016 Unfunded Capital Projects list despite only 25% of Edmontonians being Catholic, the Catholic district are getting 50% of the new schools in Edmonton! (I would think that six Public schools for two Catholic schools would be more fair and equitable.)

It appears the Government of Alberta has been unfairly and inequitably handing out money to school districts (New Schools, Modernizations, Modulars, Portables), denying public school students their fair share of the funding. As a result, the government has been artificially inflating Catholic enrollment (more space means more enrolment, means more justification for more space). I hear regularly from parents who would have chosen a public school if it were available and closer to their home, but instead opted for the Catholic district instead of a longer bus ride. This is an unfair penalty against non-catholic students and families in our city who are waiting for a new school, taking a longer bus ride, shuttled out of their current school, or is sitting in a crumbling building awaiting a modernization. Non-catholic families should not be penalized by government bias towards the Catholic school system.

How should funding be provided to Public or Catholic schools?

Here are a few ideas:

Enrolment: In 2016 Catholic School Boards (separate) made up about 23% of total enrolment in Alberta Schools. Public Schools 67%. In 2016 Edmonton (133,167 combined EPSB&ECSD students), Roughly 25-30% (40,216) go to the Catholic District and ~70% (92,951) go to the public board. (I don’t have the total student numbers for Charters/Francophone for Edmonton.)

Declared Catholics: The most recent numbers I can find from declarations on census indicate that in 2011: 24.3% Catholic in Alberta and 25.9% are Catholic in Edmonton.

Property taxOnly 17% sent their property taxes to Catholic Schools in Edmonton. Alberta-wide the number is closer to 11%.

Clear and transparent policy as to the appropriate ratio of funding that should be going to Catholic or Public boards would be a step in this direction. As a future step, I would also make the case that inequity merits greater investment on a go-forward basis to restore fairness to public students and families.

This has been a bone of contention that I’ve heard from many other school trustees across Alberta and I certainly hear from parents in new and mature areas in Edmonton. Fairness and equity in transparent, defensible policy would prevent one group from unreasonably advantaging one group over another.

It is wrong to expect non-Catholic families to send their children to Catholic schools or face ride times to public schools further away.

Although Catholic schools are fully-funded by the provincial government, It is important to correct the common myth that the Catholic School Districts are the same as a public school district with the same purpose and obligations to the community. Public school districts have a legal obligation and requirement to take all students at a designated school Catholic districts are only legally obliged to accept the Catholic.

According to the lobby group for Catholic Schools, the ACSTA:

Catholicism and Catholic education is not an alternative program offered in a secular school but a worldview, encompassing a Christian perspective, imbued with the Spirit, taught by faith witnesses who are more than teachers but sacraments to God’s grace, and Catholicism is permeated throughout the curriculum, as well as school life in general, be it through sports or extracurricular activities. (Full statement)

I appreciate and respect their evangelization mission, however it is their mission and catholic evangelization should not be the mission of Education Minister David Eggen in distributing operational funding or Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason in awarding new schools. Supporting my motion would renew the call for “public oversight and full transparency” that Premier Notley campaigned on:

“Albertans depend on our schools and hospitals for the high-quality education and health care that matters most to families,” said Notley. “But for years, the PCs put their own political interests at the top of the infrastructure list. It’s time to end the political games that too often decide when and where shovels hit the ground.”

There is no other issue more critical to the future of public education than being able to provide the right schools in the right places– right now.

I’m not advocating that the provincial government stop supporting Catholic schools, I just want to make sure Billion-dollar decisions are done in a fair, transparent, and equitable deal for public education.

I’m asking my colleagues to join public families in asking for our fair share.

(Updated) It’s Time to End the Education Property Tax Designation illusion

Updated Feb 28th: Motion passed by the Board of trustees and letter is being drafted.

Updated Feb 23rd 2017: Updated remarks posted at the bottom of this post:

Feb 21st, 2017: Many Albertans are still under the illusion that where they designate their Education Property taxes (public, separate, undeclared) makes a financial impact on the money to hire teachers, buy computers or build new schools. It does not, and this deception is problematic for many reasons. As such I have asked that the following motion be debated at the February 28th Edmonton Public School Board Meeting:

MOTION: The Edmonton Public School Board should advocate to the provincial government to eliminate the designation of Education property taxes and continue to advocate to our sole funder for predictable sustainable funding and new schools in alignment with our capital plan.

Whether you dedicate your education property taxes to the Public, Catholic/Separate school board, it does not actually make a pennies difference to education funding. This misleading box is an anachronism that should have been deleted when the taxation powers of school boards were removed in 1994. Education Property taxes from across Alberta are collected by municipalities and then pooled into the general revenue of the provincial government. They are then allocated via per student funding to each individual school board. More students? Funding goes up. More people designate their funding to your school board but your enrollment stays the same? No new money.

So the next time you here someone say “But I send my taxes to the X system!”, you can clarify that it only matters where they send their children, not their tax dollars. And the next you hear someone not understanding how we need more money for new school construction or to hire more teachers even though your property tax went up, make sure to clarify that these are unrelated issues.

As a thought experiment, the provincial government could cut the education property tax amount to zero, and while that would reduce the revenue the provincial government took in, assuming constant enrolment, the funding that flows to any school board would remain the same because of the per pupil funding formula.

And just as a disclaimer, I’m not advocating at this time to get rid of Education Property Tax (although I agree with Mayor Don Iveson that Property Taxes are regressive) and just incase any readers view this as a backdoor attempt to defund the Catholic or Francophone School System: it absolutely is not and I argue no school trustee or board is well-served by this illusion.

Here are a few other reasons to get rid of the fictional check box:

Does the designation matter?

It’s creating unnecessary paperwork: I believe it was an oversight that was missed in this process. As the province is reviewing amendments to the Modernized Municipal Government Act, it is time that we made education property tax transparent and more efficient– this is unnecessary paperwork. This would be a very simple and straightforward amendment that would reduce paperwork for municipalities and Alberta Education.

It confuses the public as to why their badly-needed school isn’t built yet: I’ve often heard expressions of frustration that given the fact hundreds of new residents indicated that they wanted to send their taxes to the public school system, so why didn’t we take that money and build a new school? Can’t we count the houses that mark an X? Because the Education Property tax does not impact school funding and new schools are awarded by the Government of Alberta (more on this later) it puts school boards — both Public and Catholic — under scrutiny and deflects blame from previous governments that took away our ability to generate our own revenue for operations or capital projects and have not fulfilled our evidence-based school needs list that is our capital plan!

It gives the provincial funder a political shield against adequately funding Education: Since 1994 when the provincial government removed the taxation powers of school boards, the provincial government is our sole funder. We are funded on a per-pupil enrolment basis and the responsibility for resourcing our schools falls solely to the provincial government. They even set the education property tax amount that is requisitioned from municipalites. We must hold them accountable and it could be argued that the existence of the “designation” allows, intentionally or not, a hanging question of “Well maybe funding to a board decreased because ratepayers dedicated their funding elsewhere.”

It does not assist student enrolment planning: As I mentioned in a previous post students move freely between Catholic and Public systems as well as within schools. You do not need to show your property tax forms as a parent at pre-enrolment and it will not guarantee you a space in the line for a crowded school or a lottery. Remember, thousands of renters do not assign their taxes so we don’t know their intention either. Capital plans are not based upon the number of people who check the box one way or another and remember renters don’t check the box at all! This further confuses our capital planning process on where Catholic or Public school boards need new schools and misleads the public.

It confuses school trustee eligibility for those seeking office and voting: This box further contributes to the confusion as it has no bearing on your eligibility. When you turn in your nomination package as a candidate you do not have to show how you designate your property tax nor when you pick up a ballot to vote for school trustee, there is no tax confirmation required to vote for either board (how else would renters run or vote?). I was just reading about a fascinating case next door in Wetaskiwin where a former Catholic trustee ran and was elected to the Public School board:

“He thought directing his taxes to the public school division made him eligible to run, she said. Although she said the law is outdated and should be changed, the board is still bound by the School Act and should comply.

There is a sense of urgency to supporting my motion and the Minister making an amendment:

First, because amendments are underway to the Modernized Municipal Government Act: It would be a very convenient time to correct this error and be transparent in our taxation. In the past Public and Catholic have held onto this checkbox in a wish that somehow taxation powers will be restored. I don’t know that this is still a top advocacy priority for school boards. The bigger issue at hand for me is transparent communication of funding needs with the taxpayers and our parents.

Secondly, it is a municipal election year and already questions of eligibility are starting to arise. Recently, I was contacted by a hopeful public school trustee candidate whose children are enrolled in Catholic school but she wanted to run for the public board but didn’t know if she was eligible. This box contributes to the erroneous belief around candidate eligibility. As a voter you don’t have to bring your property check box to the ballot station in order to cast your ballot for school trustee.

Thirdly, by all accounts and signals by the provincial government, this is going to be a very difficult budget year. As a growing school board we depend on the provincial government to fund enrollment growth for school boards. Our school board has already grown 6000 students in the last two years. We need to do what we can to speak truth to our parents about how their schools are funded, how their schools are built, and the power that they have to activate their MLAs to make the right decisions at the budget table.

I realize that tax policy may be dry or not as interesting as other education issues, but this issue is critical to the sustainability and stability of our schools.


Here is the AUMA:

Municipalities are the authorities responsible to collect property taxes. The municipal tax portion is managed by the municipality to fund local operations and the education tax portion is transferred to the province to fund the Alberta School Foundation Fund.


“Since all school boards across the province are funded on an equitable per-student funding formula, the declaration does not actually affect the level of funding of any public or separate school board.”


City of Edmonton:

Use of the Education Tax:

The Government of Alberta states that education property taxes support public and separate school students in kindergarten to grade 12. Education property taxes are pooled and then distributed to all Alberta school boards on an equal per-student basis. The majority of these funds are for instruction, including teacher salaries, textbooks, and other classroom resources.


While the school board will have a chance to debate the motion on Tuesday, February 28th, I thought I would post a few updates:

But while many are under the impression their dollars go directly to the school district they check off, the funds are actually pooled provincially and distributed to schools based on enrollment.

“We were constantly told that Catholics paid for Catholic education. And that didn’t seem to add up,” said APUPIL spokesperson Luke Fevin.

The numbers show roughly $1.9 billion of property taxes collected in 2014-15 were from taxpayers who chose to support public, versus $214 million from those supporting Catholic.

  • The Minister of Education responded to questions on the subject:

Education Minister David Eggen said the Constitution and Alberta Act compel the government to ask about the religion of property owners where a separate school board exists. (

  • While currently required, the constitutional and Alberta Act changes could be easily made in the next sitting of the legislature and then would be ratified by the House of Commons/Senate. The amending formula for the constitution could be as easy as changing Daylight Savings Time:

    The Constitution’s central document — more specifically section 93 the Constitution Act of 1867, also called the British North America Act — gives provinces the right to make laws governing education. Such documents, including the Alberta Act and the Saskatchewan Act, can be changed. The procedure for this type of amendment is laid out in section 43 of the 1982 Constitution Act. It requires the approval of the House of Commons, the Senate, and, crucially, only the province or provinces that the change affects.

    In Ontario the procedure would be basically the same. The provincial and federal legislatures would have to agree to the change, and a line would be added to section 93 stating that the separate-school rules don’t apply to Ontario. There’s no reason to think the feds wouldn’t go along with this. They green-lit Quebec’s move to do the exact same thing in 1999.



Partnership in Action: EPSB Kindergarten students to receive free EPL cards!

As many readers know I’m a passionate supporter of EPL and a former 6 year Edmonton Public Library Trustee. So you can likely imagine my reaction to this exciting collaboration between EPL and EPSB!

I’m overjoyed by the fact that we are working together to improve early literacy and help even more kindergarten kids get free library cards!

Here is the full text of the joint release put out Friday by EPL and EPSB:

Edmonton Kindergarten students to receive free library cards

Edmonton Public Library, Edmonton Public Schools sign new Memorandum of Understanding and commit to the importance of early literacy

For immediate release:

EDMONTON, AB,  February 17, 2017 – Free library cards will make their way into the hands of more Kindergarten students, thanks to a partnership between the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) and Edmonton Public Schools (EPSB).

According to Early Child Development Mapping Project (ECMap), less than 50% of children entering Kindergarten in Edmonton start school ready to learn. With a common objective to support students in their journey from early learning through high school and beyond, EPL and EPSB are collaborating to ensure children are provided with the tools and resources needed for an excellent start to school. Class visits and field trips to the library will be a focus for EPL, with staff from neighbourhood branches working with schools, teachers and students in their community. Every child in Kindergarten, along with their families, will also be provided with an opportunity to get a library card through their classroom.

“We know the early years of a child’s life set the tone for their learning,” said Pilar Martinez, Chief Executive Officer for the Edmonton Public Library. “Kindergarten is a critical age – it is a time when children make significant progress in developing the building blocks of reading and literacy.

“Edmonton Public Schools wants to give children an excellent start to learning – and the library can help.”

EPL has provided over 13,000 EPSB students with free library cards through the School Library Card program. Since this initiative began at the start of the 2016/2017 school year, 1,065 Kindergartners have signed up for their very own library card – a total of 59% of EPSB Kindergarten students. The goal is to reach 70% by the end of summer 2017.

“Libraries are an integral support for literacy and developing young learners into lifelong readers, and the earlier we can make that connection, the better,” said Michael Janz, Edmonton Public School Board Chair. “It’s easy to fall in love with libraries when you’re Kindergarten age – especially the modern, creative, diverse and exciting libraries of EPL.”

The two organizations, who have been working together formally since 2006, signed a new Memorandum of Understanding on Friday, taking their partnership to the next level.

For more information on early literacy for Kindergarten children, visit


– 30 –


About the Edmonton Public Library
The Edmonton Public Library (EPL) is proud to be 2014 Library of the Year! We’ve come a long way since 1913 when books were all you could find on our shelves… and we’re just getting started! Today, EPL carries everything you care about. We are Edmonton’s largest lender of all manner of information and entertainment. Our professionally trained staff take you beyond Google with the knowledge, discernment and desire to help you navigate a universe of information. The second most visited place in Edmonton, every year EPL hosts over 14 million in-branch and online visits across our 20 branches and website. We deliver our incredible content to you everywhere – in the library, at home or on your handheld device. Unmatched access and unrivalled value – that is today’s EPL. EPL is a registered charity and relies on donations to enhance services. Spread the words.

About the Edmonton Public School Board
With more than 200 schools and nearly 100,000 students, Edmonton Public Schools is the second largest school district in Alberta and the sixth largest in Canada. Edmonton Public Schools is helping to shape the future in every one of our classrooms. We’re focused on ensuring each student learns to their full potential and develops the ability, passion and imagination to pursue their dreams and contribute to their community.

For more information, contact

Heather McIntyre
Communications Specialist
Edmonton Public Library

Brad Stromberg
Supervisor, Media Relations
Edmonton Public School Board

Electing a new Board Chair…

At the January 17th, 2017 Caucus meeting, I provided notice to my Trustee colleagues that after two years at the helm, I would be stepping aside as Board Chair, allowing for the election of a new Board Chair, and continuing to serve the board as Trustee for Ward F.

Given the fact that my youngster arrived three weeks early, I’ve asked Michelle to prepare for an organizational board meeting to be held February 28th, 2017.

It has been an incredible honor and I look forward to continuing to support the district in our very important work.

Here is a copy of my letter I gave the board: (PDF: 17JAN2017~Board Chair)


Sharpen the Saw: Professional Development Opportunities in Alberta

How many of you have seen the #7 habits programs around your schools?

Habit #7: Sharpen The Saw…

I’m a big supporter of effective professional development opportunities that help connect us to the important issues in the community. I’ve found many incredible opportunities are available right here in Edmonton… not to mention you get to develop local relationships and connections with local agencies, leaders, volunteers etc. etc. Many of these opportunities would not just be valuable to school trustees, but other elected officials, volunteers, political organizers, and many other active citizens!
I thought it might be helpful to start building a list of outstanding professional development opportunities in the capital region. If you are aware of others, shoot me an email (, and I’ll add them to the list!
 I’m not sure if you have looked into the Elected Officials Education Program but I think you might be interested in this. While it is not tailored to school boards directly, the overall themes and focus on good governance are significant and I think they would be very targeted and provocative Professional Development for our work.
#3 EVERACTIVE SCHOOLS summer workshop and meetings
#4 Aboriginal Community Relations:
(Or any of the Faculty of Extension courses related to finance/business/governance/municipal politics/ etc for that matter)

#6: Planning Academy
(These should be mandatory for all elected officials. $40 for 8hrs of solid knowledge plus a binder!)
 #7 Online Resources:
EPL: There are lots of awesome online learning opportunities through EPL available — and many more– for free!

#8: John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights
Registration is open for the Human Rights Facilitator Training Program:

What if EPSB was powered by 100% Renewable Energy?

What if the Edmonton Public School Board was entirely powered by renewable energy?

In addition to the numerous ecological benefits, in an environment of economic uncertainty, committing to renewables maybe a sound fiscal strategy to avoid upcoming budgetary stings– carbon pricing, coal phaseout and other market vulnerabilities.

The educational opportunities to embrace solar micro-generation on our school roofs are fascinating, and should be considered as an in-school educational opportunity. The chance to be a part of a new economic diversification project would be very aligned with our Career Pathways plan.

We would not be the first school district to take this step. As reported by CBC, 25 schools pooled their purchasing power and bought themselves a wind farm to power 50o schools around Alberta.

For a large urban district like Edmonton Public Schools with over 200+ school buildings, this is a very exciting possibility. Check out this video:

As reported by Green Energy Futures:

Five hundred Alberta schools are powered by the wind. Twenty six school districts pooled their purchasing power to get long term price stability and they have a wind farm built by BluEarth Renewables to show for it.

The fiscal case merits further examination.
Embracing ecological sustainability is a topic we regularly hear is a priority for our students. I would also encourage you to check out a white paper presented by Queen Elizabeth calling for climate change strategies and utilizing green energy in schools. This is the inspiring story of Alberta students who held town halls with none other than the Premier of Alberta and then wrote a white paper on how Alberta schools can take action on climate change in the curriculum and on schools in the form of solar or energy efficiency projects. Here is a quick video summary:

Celebrating English Language Learners through lessons on Winter

Last week at the Edmonton Public Board Meeting we heard a presentation from our administration, our schools, and our students about helping students who are English language learners (ELL) be successful in Edmonton Public Schools.

Edmonton Public Schools is committed to providing welcoming, safe, inclusive and responsive learning environments for all students. We have been welcoming newcomers to Canada into our classrooms for years.  Our current ELL population is supported through multi-disciplinary teams in Inclusive Learning and four reception centres, for family orientations, assessments, consultations, coaching and professional development for teachers and staff. Community partnerships play a valuable role in supporting newcomers in our schools.

The number of students identified and coded as ELL, as of September 30, 2015, is 22,437. This includes 166 early learners and 1,625 Kindergarten students. This is an increase from 12 613 identified students in 2010-11.

These numbers continue to grow. The classroom of today looks very different than it did twenty years ago. Our schools are incredibly diverse with many students coming from many different backgrounds around the world.

Edmonton Public Schools is part of a city-wide coordinated response plan to support the Syrian newcomers, and for decades have been partners in welcoming refugee and immigrant students from around the world. I am very proud of the efforts taking place in our schools and the warmth the greater Edmonton community has shown to supporting these students and their families.

Please see a .pdf “winter language guide” made by students to help new students adjust to our Canadian winters:  (larger file, contact me michael dot janz at and I’ll email it to you) Older students helped create a multi-lingual guide to winter for future newcomers. A practical and humorous guide to have the most fun in the snow!

Please see our EPSB English Language Learners report:

All About Winter Booklet


All About Winter Booklet






Can a School Board leave the ASBA?

On Monday, the Edmonton Public School Board invites the 61 member school boards of the Alberta School Boards Association to restore school board choice in membership. We have put forward an emergent amendment for discussion, requesting that our employee health plan (the Alberta School Employees Benefit Plan) not require school boards to be ASBA members. For over 34 years this was the case– boards could access the benefit plan, but were not required to be ASBA members to do so.

Section 5.3.1 of the ASEBP Deed of trust was amended in 1994, adding a new requirement that in order to participate in ASEBP, a school board must either be a member of the ASBA, or be approved for participation by the parties to the deed.

This amendment does not align with the Alberta School Boards Association Act, which provides that ASBA membership is voluntary, not mandatory, and was made without the District’s approval, with the result that the Board feels that it has been deprived of its statutory right to choose ASBA membership, or not. This amendment was purely designed to artificially strengthen the ASBA and was politically motivated in nature. It does not enhance the benefits for employees or for boards.

1. Section 3-3.1(b) shall be amended as follows:

Membership in ASBA shall NOT be a requirement for boards to be eligible for continued participation in group benefits through ASEBP;

Current ASBA policy reads:

Association Partnerships 3-1 Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP)
The Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) takes the following positions with regard to the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) Deed of Trust:
1 Membership in ASBA shall be a requirement for boards to be eligible for continued participation in group benefits through ASEBP;
2 ASEBP administration shall operate independently of the ASBA and the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) by reporting directly to the ASEBP Insurance Board;
3 The ASEBP Trust shall be solely responsible for any liabilities of the ASEBP plans or operation; 4 The ATA and the ASBA shall refrain from appointing their collective bargaining negotiators to the ASEBP board of directors; and
5 a. Appointment of representatives from ASBA to the ASEBP board of directors shall be for a maximum of two successive three-year terms; and
b. Representatives from ASBA to the ASEBP board of directors may serve for more than two, three- year terms provided they are not successive.

This amendment would bring the ASBA back in conformance with the Alberta School Boards Association Act (which provides school boards the ability to leave the ASBA), and would make it more responsive to its member boards, leading to greater member satisfaction and a stronger ASBA. Lastly and most importantly, it would promote and honour local autonomy for all boards.

We will be proposing this emergent motion at 0900AM, Monday November 16th at the ASBA Fall General Meeting. Edmonton Public Schools has been actively advocating to the ASBA Board of Directors to undo the amendment requiring membership since June 2015(01 – June 3, 2015 Letter from General Counsel re ASEBP Deed of Trust).

We are optimistic that other school boards will support us, such as the board of Medicine Hat School District (below).

ASEBP Letter RE Edmonton Public Position











Our request letter:

Emergent Item (ASEBP)





Alberta Needs A Wellness Foundation

I believe our province needs to shift our healthcare system towards a greater focus on disease prevention.

I also believe that prevention efforts must focus on our most formative years: the early years and our K-12 education system. Healthy children grow up to be healthy Albertans. There is only one tax dollar, and dollars spent treating preventable diseases, are dollars not available to invest in our school system. If we can shift our system to be more proactive and preventative, we will see significant cost savings that could be invested in other areas, such as K-12 education.

At our September 8th Public Board Meeting I will be giving notice of motion that our board join the chorus of other advocate organizations, municipalities, and school boards calling for the establishment of a Wellness Foundation as outlined by Wellness Alberta.

I believe that a Wellness Foundation would be of significant interest to our School board because of the potential future investments in health promotion in our school system. Lifelong habits are formed during the school years, and I hope that as a school district can be a supportive partner in turning the (healthy) learners of today into the (healthy) leaders of tomorrow.

As a school district, we already are partners in reducing tobacco use. We have eliminated the sale of junk food from our schools. We are working on numerous programs that increase physical activity. We are partners in drug and alcohol programs. We are continuing to increase our focus on the early years and supporting those students at the greatest risk or who are entering our school system with the greatest needs. The Wellness Alberta proposed Wellness Foundation is aligned with our mission, vision, and priorities.


That the Edmonton Public School Board endorse the need for the Alberta Wellness Foundation. (Background: Wellness Foundation)

Wellness Alberta brings together thousands of individuals including business, health and recreational leaders and non-governmental organizations who support a meaningful investment in the prevention of disease and injuries. Through a sustainable investment in an Alberta Wellness Foundation, Albertans will benefit from improved health outcomes and reduced demands on health care, which will greatly enrich the quality of life for current and future generations.

We, the undersigned, support the efforts of Wellness Alberta and believe the Alberta Government should establish a Wellness Foundation in Alberta, which is:

 Well-financed (initial investment of $50 million annually, increasing over 3 to 5 years to an amount equivalent to at least 1 percent of the health care budget or $170 million  annually),

 Sustained and protected by legislation, and

 Functions independent of the acute health care system to maintain financial autonomy, accountability and transparency.

A number of school boards have already endorsed the Wellness Foundation including the Edmonton and Calgary Catholic school boards.

The City Councils of Edmonton and Calgary also provided unanimous support for the proposed foundation.

This motion would be debated at the September 22nd Board Meeting.

You can find a number of background documents on their website including an endorsement form.

Click here to download the Wellness Alberta Statement of Support Form and Overview Document: FINAL-WellnessAB-FaxBack-Endorsement Form-April_22_2013

Here is a list of other endorsers:

Background on the Wellness Foundation:

Wellness Alberta Recommends:

 Establish a Wellness Foundation to transform the health and quality of life of all Albertans.

 The Wellness Foundation must be well-financed, sustainable and operate independent of the health care system.

 The Wellness Foundation must focus on primary prevention to address major modifiable risk factors for chronic disease.

Wellness Alberta is very concerned about the chronic disease epidemic in Alberta. Chronic disease is the leading cause of death and disability in Alberta and it has a major impact on the physical, mental and economic health of all residents. The good news is that over 40% of these diseases can be prevented by taking action to reduce risk factors including tobacco and alcohol use, poor nutrition and physical inactivity.

Protecting mental health by preventing adverse childhood experiences and reducing risk for injury and disability is also crucial to preventing chronic disease. Unfortunately, the Alberta Government is spending more than ever before on acute health care, with the majority (over 90%) spent on treating and managing preventable disease and disability.

Wellness Alberta believes Alberta needs to make new, long-term and sustainable investments in preventing disease and promoting health to reduce the burden on our health care system and improve our quality of life. Alberta needs a Wellness Foundation.

To maximize the impact on the physical, mental and economic health of Albertans, the Wellness Foundation must be well-financed, sustainable and independent of the health care system. The Foundation will focus on primary prevention initiatives to address six major modifiable risk factors including physical inactivity, unhealthy eating, tobacco use, alcohol misuse adverse childhood experiences and injury.

 We recommend that the Foundation be announced in August 2013 and initiate operation in April 2014.

 We propose the Foundation be initially financed through an annual grant of $50M, increasing to at least $170M annually (representing an amount equivalent to at least 1% of the Alberta Health budget) over a 3-5 year period.

 The Foundation funding must be new investments that are in addition to Government’s current overall investment in prevention and health promotion and must not be reallocated out of existing health budgets.

 New investments can be derived from the Alberta Government’s general revenue fund or by the creation of a “Wellness Levy” funded by modest mark-ups on alcohol and tobacco products.

 Stable, long-term funding dedicated to prevention and health promotion is a good value for money: a one dollar investment can be expected to result in a minimum $4-5 cost savings in future acute health care expenditures. However, some large scale interventions have been shown to produce a return-of-investment of up to 50:1.

 The Foundation will ensure new investments are directed to evidence-based strategies and sustained over the long-term to improve the health of Albertans and reduce the burden of chronic disease and disability on our health care system.

 The Foundation must function independently of the acute health care system to maintain financial autonomy, accountability and transparency.

 The Foundation should be created by an Act of the Legislative Assembly and report directly to the Assembly each year.

 The Foundation should be governed by an independent board comprised of key stakeholders that are selected by an all-party committee of the Legislative Assembly.

For more information about what a Wellness Foundation could do to promote and protect the wellness of children, adults, families and communities in Alberta, please see our website


Celebrating EPSB and Metro School Board Advocacy

Click the underlined text to download and read our Winter Metro Board Newsletter. Like most blogs, this post is a personal reflection on provincial public education advocacy.

I’m excited for the Edmonton Public School Board to further strengthen our relationship with the Metro School Boards Group (MSBG) next year. This is easily the biggest “bang for our buck” advocacy relationship for EPSB. Together, we amplify the voices of our communities while ensuring that taxpayer dollars are maximized in the classroom. An example of this action was the ad-hoc April 20th gathering of 19 school boards during the provincial election, (initiated by the four metro school boards).

Percentage of Alberta Students by School Board:

Calgary Board of Education: 18.3%

Edmonton Public School Board: 14.5%

Calgary Catholic School District – 8.5%

Edmonton Catholic School District – 6.2%

As you can see, the four metro boards make up 47.5% of students. Calgary Public and Edmonton Public school boards alone represent a third of students in Alberta.

The other rural school boards are part of other trustee advocacy organizations such as the:

Alberta Catholic Trustees Association (all 17 Catholic School boards are members)

Fédération des conseils scolaires francophones de l’Alberta
(All 4 Francophone boards are members)

Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta (28 public boards are members. Calgary Public and Edmonton Public are not members.

Private and Charter Schools have their own lobbying groups as well.

At this time, 61 school boards in Alberta are part of the Alberta School Boards’ Association. There are 63 school boards in the ASBA (and two from the Yukon) representing 601,678 students paying $2,993,302 in membership fees.

ASBA members include all Public, Catholic, and Francophone boards from rural and metro areas. Most of the other rural school boards have very few students and very different challenges than the four metro school boards. For example, 0nly nine Alberta school boards have more than 10,000 students and sometimes in trying to be everything to everyone, individual messages and values get lost. Anecdotally, I have also heard from a few different rural public school boards that they would prefer to only be a member of the PSBAA, rather than being a member of both the ASBA and the PSBAA, because the PSBAA better articulates their public concerns on issues such as Gay Straight Alliances or Catholic School Board expansion in rural communities. Similarly, I’ve also heard from Catholic trustees who would prefer to only be members of the ACSTA.

I predict we may see a shake-up in school board representation at the provincial level (a subject for a future blog post). In 2013 Calgary Public was quite frustrated with the ASBA and moved to withhold 10% of their membership citing concerns about the value of ASBA membership. Edmonton Public Schools will be debating leaving the ASBA this fall. Personally, I resigned as Vice-President of the ASBA and you can read my letter of resignation here.

So what is the most effective way to tell the Calgary and Edmonton education story?

When I look at the political landscape and reflect upon where our board can get the biggest bang-for-our-buck, it’s by focusing on expanded and collaborative advocacy with the four metro school boards. In the municipal world, the urban and rural are not under the same umbrella. The cities are part of the AUMA (Alberta Urban Municipalities Association) while the counties are part of the AAMDC (Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties).

The four chair’s of the metro school boards regularly participate in Video Conference calls strategizing on joint issues of concern and brainstorming about new opportunities to advocate. Last year we published joint newsletters, held meetings with the Education Minister, lobbied government and opposition MLAs, and shared best practices and collaborated on emergent issues.

Being a big school board can sometimes mean “more money more problems” but there are also unique opportunities as large boards. We recognize that there is a diversity of need throughout the province (urban, rurban, and rural). As metro boards, our issues and our capacity to respond to these challenges are simply different. This isn’t to say that as metro boards we aren’t willing to support other boards or associations on an ad hoc basis when our issues align like we did with the 19 boards during the provincial election.

The best part? The Metro School Board Group partnership is virtually free. We don’t have staff, expensive travel and accommodation costs, we are focused on Alberta (as opposed to out-of-province activities) and we don’t charge a membership fee. The contribution is the opportunity cost of our time and the occasional staff support on projects. We are nimble, efficient, and effective.

Next steps…

In future, there may be need or interest in enhancing the work we do with the four metros — maybe even formalizing this partnership with a Memorandum of Understanding (or the creation of the Metro School Boards’ Association?) but with limited time and energy, I’m pleased to see the results and the relationships that have developed by focusing on the areas of shared concern.

As our board debates this fall about the merits of membership in the Alberta School Boards’ Association, it is certainly worth reflecting on which relationships provide the greatest return on investment for our students.