On Education, Mr. Ford receives a failing grade. Alberta politicians should take note.

I’m a keen follower of Education politics across Canada (peopleforeducation in Ontario is the gold standard of parent advocacy) so it is with great interest that I learned Premier Doug Ford is flying into Alberta this week for a pep-rally with opposition leader Jason Kenney to reveal their new strategy to address climate change.

I’m sure it will be controversial for a number of reasons. Already groups such as Women’s March Canada are preparing to protest: “This is more than a carbon tax, this is a meeting of minds intent on inserting narrow viewpoints into our health and education.”

Would Jason Kenney Copy Premier Ford’s lesson plan? What does Education in Ontario Hold for Alberta?

While Mr. Kenney was gleeful when Premier Ford was elected, if Mr. Kenney tries to follow Doug Ford’s lesson plan, our classrooms are in big trouble. In Jason Kenney’s own words, his “bromance” with Doug Ford is such that they “finish each other’s sentences.”

I sure hope they aren't talking about education!

Would Mr. Kenney follow Premier Ford towards a radical social conservative agenda?

Ontario’s students no longer learn about topics like consent, gender identity, and technology safety. To make matters worse, in response to teachers who are outraged by these changes, Premier Ford set up a “snitch line” for parents to report any teachers who continue to teach these topics. (Teachers: imagine the chill that looms over the classroom when a student asks a question about the supreme court hearings in the United States...)

The repeal of modern sex-education (back to 1998) has thrown the province into legal limbo with multiple lawsuits in front of the courts, and a massive student-led action: 33,000 students walked out of school in protest of changes to the elementary sex education curriculum, cancelation of curriculum writing from an Indigenous perspective, and cancelation of much-needed school repairs:

"We find it appalling that we don't have a curriculum that is up to date," said Frank Hong, a Grade 12 student who helped organize the rallies. "For some vulnerable teens, these are issues of life or death."

Mr. Kenney and the UCP already seem to have been captured by Alberta's most radical social conservative elements, who they continue to regularly dog-whistle on issues of sexual orientation and gender diversity. In case you missed it, Rick Mercer called out Jason Kenney for his homophobic policies last year:

Much of the hard work we as educators have done to build the welcoming, supportive, inclusive classrooms, not to mention young people’s health and lives, would be put at risk.

Would Mr. Kenney follow Premier Ford's radical fiscal agenda?

We need new schools in Alberta, and we need to modernize many of our existing schools. In Ontario, Premier Ford slashed the classrooms, cutting $100 million for much-needed school repairs, failing to address the millions in deferred maintenance looming.

Mr. Ford implemented a hiring freeze on school boards and has signaled further cuts will be forthcoming. As I shared last week, if there was a hiring freeze or if education funding was cut back to 2015 levels, per capita growth funding was lost, or an austerity budget was implemented, there would be much larger class sizes, deleterious effects on the classroom, and thousands of job losses across Alberta to teachers, support staff, and more.

Will Premier Notley follow Ontario’s lead and end the hundreds of millions of dollars subsidizing elite private schools?

One area that Mr. Ford appears to deserve credit is that it seems he has no plan to subsidize private school businesses with public tax dollars.

Alberta continues to misspend hundreds of millions of dollars every year subsidizing elite or extreme religious private schools, while Ontario wisely does not spend a cent of public money subsidizing those who opt-out of their designated public school system.

Call to action: Ask your candidates the tough questions: Do they want Doug Ford's extreme education agenda imposed on Alberta?

Now is the time for more spending on education, not less!

Now is the time for more school construction and modernization projects. Parents should not be fundraising for playgrounds and bike racks!

Now is the time for valuable investments in mental health and school nutrition.

Now is the time for more support to address special need students, English language learners, and the enormous ethnocultural and linguistic challenges that are present in the modern classroom.

Now is the time for a modernized curriculum with Indigenous perspectives, modern sex education explicitly including topics like consent, that teaches students to resist racism and intolerance, and prepares students for the economy of tomorrow.

Just as many of us shudder when we hear nostalgia for the deep and brutal cuts of Ralph Klein or Jim Dinning, I shudder to think that a dangerous social conservative and austerity agenda could be imposed on Alberta.

So let's get organized! Talk to your school council, trustee, and political candidates. Talk to your parents and friends at the grocery store, on social media, and at the playground.

It is up to all of us as education advocates to make sure that ALL parties and ALL leaders to turn away from the regressive social policies and fiscal austerity that would compromise our children’s future. We must turn towards the future, not only in sex education and social policy but also in making our public education system even stronger and our youth ready to face tomorrow.

What do you think? michael@michaeljanz.ca

The Financial Impact of Education Cuts- initial thoughts

Last spring I made the following request to our administration with regard to the budget implications of potential funding cuts. Harmful rhetoric has been circulating from political parties, corporate think tanks, and candidates for public office. I asked about the impact these cuts may have on the district, and what would the impact be if the rhetoric became reality. The response is posted here.

TRUSTEE REQUEST FOR INFORMATION: In reference to the 2018-2019 Distribution of Funds report: That Administration provide a report outlining the impact to schools, staffing and the educational experience if the District:
- was not funded for per capital student growth
- had a hiring freeze and were not permitted to staff retirements
- were faced with a three per cent decrease to the budget for the next four years
- were faced with a five per cent decrease to the budget for the next four years

The short answer to this bleak scenario? I look to UCP MLA Dave Hanson who was quite candid about education cuts at a local candidate forum: "I’m sorry to tell you, but it’s going to hurt. Will it affect you? It absolutely will,” current MLA Dave Hanson said.

Well, at least he was honest. No school would be spared. Neither would frontline staff in your classroom. The teachers, support staff, custodians, and maintenance workers your youngster depends on.

While I was provided the EPSB ledger, I expect the drastic cuts would look the same across any one of the province’s 61 school boards. Due to declining enrolment and populations in rural communities, I expect the impact on students would look even worse.

Aside from potentially thousands of job losses across Alberta, there would be a devastating impact to students and student achievement. Every dollar in education contributes to supporting students and what they need to be successful in our schools. Appropriate class sizes. Supports for special needs students. Enrichment programs and activities for students who need to be challenged. Specialized supports for the students who are falling behind. School boards are struggling with enrollment growth, classroom complexity and diversity of students. When I talk to parents and teachers, it is clear that more funding is needed for public education, not less.

Over the last decade, we’ve barely recovered from the Klein cutbacks of the 1990s. Recently I heard about a school that is asking parents to use fundraising money to pay for a bike rack for kids to bike to school. Large class sizes are but one symptom of underfunding.

Education cuts now would be devastating. If we want to actually make things better for our students, staff, and families, it is time for investment, not cutbacks. Per Capita Growth funding only provides a school the same funding for the same inadequate status quo in the face of increasing complexity and challenges.

As a Trustee, I would not be doing my job effectively if I didn’t highlight the investment in the future of our prosperity that is an excellent public education system. The deferred maintenance bubble looming shows it isn’t just our classrooms, but also our physical school buildings in need of reinvestment.

Let’s stop talking about how to make it worse, let’s start talking about how to make it better. We need quality improvement in class sizes, diversity/high needs classroom support, early learning (junior and senior Kindergarten) and more mental health supports.

Read the report (link). What do you think?

Some quick initial thoughts:
The information and analysis provide clear and specific insights into the potential effects around funding (or not) for growth, and increased cost of living, as well as for various kinds of potential direct cuts.

  • In the face of uncertain funding, how do we make headway towards reducing class sizes? How do we make headway on the auditor general recommendations? How do we live inclusion better?
  • We need to focus our advocacy on why these improvements are absolutely essential to student success, well-being, and why (and how) we should pay for them.
  • If political parties say "we can't afford them" then we need to give people the tools to help effectively demand these changes from MLAs, candidates, and parties. Ideally, all political parties' platforms contain a commitment to invest more in public education.

As supporters of students, what should we do? Please send me an email (michael@michaeljanz.ca) and let me know how we can work together to continue to invest in a public education system we can all be proud of.

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!


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Survey Response: David Staples, Edmonton Journal Columnist

On October 4th, Edmonton Journal Columnist David Staples sent Trustee Candidates an email letting us know that he would be endorsing candidates in his opinion columns this week. As an opinion columnist he has the freedom to write endorsements and write articles as he pleases. As there are 40+ trustee candidates and he only has a 600 word column, I thought it would be helpful to share my responses to his questions here.
I would like to hear your feedback. Did I miss something? Is there something you would like to share with me that I should supplement on my page? All constituent feedback is valuable, whether you are a student, parent, or Edmonton Journal columnist and I appreciate hearing from you.

Here were the themes of his questions which I have answered below:
1. Math education?
2. Provincial exams?
3. Grade 3 provincial exams?
4. New curriculum rewrite?
5. To what do you attribute Alberta’s success in PISA exams?
6. Do you support public subsidies for private schools?
7. Social studies 
8. Process for developing new curriculum?
9. Support for open boundaries?
(The full text of his questions are below my responses)
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Edmonton Election Advance Voting Oct 4, 2017 — Ward F

The 2017 Edmonton municipal election is being held on Monday October 16th, 2017 from 9AM to 7PM. If you are unable to vote on the October 16th, there will be advanced voting held on Wednesday, October 4th. To find where to vote you can use the Where to vote tool available on the edmonton.ca/election website. 

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What I'm hearing about Inclusion

As I started door knocking in May for my public trustee re-election campaign, one of the most frequent questions I received from teachers and parents (whether they had special needs students in their family or not) was: what do I think of changes to classroom composition?

When I decided to become a trustee candidate in 2010, I took the time to pen out my vision and values. Many of my beliefs and values surrounding public education were honed by researching for the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta and serving as the President of the Students’ Union at the University of Alberta. Both experiences grounded my vision and values in a belief in a strong public education system guided by the wishes of the community to ensure all voices are heard and every student can succeed....

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Southwest Edmonton Needs New Public Elementary, Junior and High Schools

Southwest Edmonton Needs New Public Elementary, Junior and High Schools

Since I was first elected school trustee in 2010, advocating for the construction of new K-9 and High Schools— especially for the Southwest— has been a top priority.  However, the responsibility for allocating new schools falls solely in the hands of the Provincial Government — not the school board or the city council. This has been the case since 1994, and it is important for you to know the board of trustees are exhausting every single opportunity advocate for new schools, and to make sure public school families get their fair share. Edmonton Public school families are competing for their fair share of school construction money against not only against Calgary and other rural Alberta communities but publicly-funded Catholic and Francophone schools as well. Your voice can help....

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Hello, Bonjour, Guten Tag, Nǐ Hǎo… Second language instruction in Edmonton Public Schools

When it comes to public education, Edmontonians speak with many voices. Over the past few months of door-knocking, I’ve had thousands of conversations about everything imaginable. Overwhelmingly, people have wanted to tell me about the important relationship between their school and their community, but I’ve also heard about school fees, the future of textbooks, and everything in between!

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About Michael

Michael has been your Public School Trustee since 2010, serving as Chair from 2015-2017. Michael lives in Ward F (Strathcona).

Ward F, Michael Janz - What strengths and experience do I bring as Trustee?

Beyond his work as Trustee, Michael is a father of a future EPSB student and has been proud to serve our community in several other capacities:

  • Manager with Boys and Girls Club Big Brothers Big Sisters Edmonton
  • Former Marketing Director for the Edmonton
  • Federation of Community Leagues
  • Masters in Education Policy Studies from the University of Alberta
  • Avenue Magazine 2012 “Top 40 Under 40"
  • Served as President of the University of Alberta Students’ Union
  • Six year Trustee, Edmonton Public Library Board

Ward F, Michael Janz - Why do I want to be re-elected Trustee?

Michael will Continue to Champion:

  • New school construction, prioritizing a new high
  • school for the Southwest
  • Equity and fairness for all students including: special needs learners; English language learners; and gifted and talented learners
  • Support for vulnerable families through safe, caring, welcoming schools for all students
  • Expanding programs of choice and increasing opportunities for students and their families
  • Financial literacy and post-secondary transitions
  • Improving academic achievement, high school completion rates, and access to career pathways
  • Focusing education spending on the classroom in support of teachers and school staff

Ward F, Michael Janz - How will I continue to advance my goals for the next three years?

Support our campaign by hosting a lawn sign, making a donation or volunteering:

Ward F, Michael Janz - What are the three most important challenges facing public education? 

Strong School and Strong Communities: The New City

The New City by John Lorinc: How the Crisis of Canada’s Cities is Reshaping Our Nation

I picked up THE NEW CITY by John Lorinc about two years ago and I still find myself referencing it once or twice a month. So many fantastic books on urban and city policy are American in scope, but this book examines everything through a uniquely Canadian lens. From aging populations to immigrants to crime to transportation issues to productivity– you name it– Lorinc touches on all of the pressure points affecting our communities and makes a convincing case that the future of our nation sinks or swims with our large urban centers.

I was immediately magnitized to his focus on LEARNING CITIES and the important role that public education plays in building strong cities. His LEARNING CITIES chapter gives an excellent synopsis of pressures facing public education– English language learners, school closures, growing urban aboriginal populations, lack of local control of funding, and much more.

His writing is as enjoyable to read as it is informative...

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