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.

We need your help:

First: Write to your school trustee. Your stories and letters put arrows in our quiver. Our Facts tell, but your stories sell our case for new schools. Second: Write to your MLA. Emails and written letters help amplify our presentations. They need to hear that Albertans believe new schools are a sensible investment in community and are a timely economic stimulus.

No new schools were built between 2002 and 2010

The opening of three new schools (two K–9s and one K–6) in the 2016–2017 school year and the scheduled opening of 11 new schools (seven K–9s, two K–7s, one K–6 and one 7–9) in the 2017–2018 school year have relieved some of the immediate enrolment pressures that resulted from no new school construction from 2002 to 2010, despite the rapid student population growth in new suburban areas that occurred during the same time.

We gladly share our data:

Our metrics are comprehensive. We prioritize our school requests for new construction and major additions based on a review of all land development plans, policies and data for the City of Edmonton, and analysis of pre-school and student residency data in suburban areas, including but not limited to: number of current students residing in an area and projected students, the historical pace of development and the amount of development remaining in an area, utilization of the schools that the majority of students residing in the area attend, average distance travelled by the students to their designated school, accommodation of alternative and special education programs, and partnerships, current state of development of the proposed site, new capacity represented by recently funded capital projects, and much more. You can read all about this by searching “Three Year Capital Plan” on epsb.ca

We’ve been asking for high schools for the last 5 years

A request for additional high school space has been made by the board in the previous last five capital plan submissions, not including this years’ draft submission. Focusing on attendance area high school enrolment and space, the High School Accommodation Framework 2016–2019 has concluded that additional capacity is needed now and in the near future to accommodate increasing high school student enrolment in the District. The District will need at least 8,000 additional spaces to accommodate these students, thus new high school requests require increased prioritization.

More spaces means more program choices

School space and program placement (especially high-demand programs such as French immersion or Mandarin Bilingual), School community renewal projects, new construction opportunities in developing areas, growth of alternative and special education programs, and efficient management of our existing resources is extremely complex. To continue to provide high quality learning environments and supports for students and community members, the District works closely with our partner organizations, where possible. A strong working relationship with our partners at the City of Edmonton has contributed to the initiatives in mature and developing communities. EPSB continues to look for additional opportunities to work with agencies and organizations that support students, their families and the broader community.

Want to learn more? Send me an email and I’ll buy you a coffee: michael@michaeljanz.ca

Michael Janz is Past EPSB Chair and the Trustee for Ward F. Visit his website at www.michaeljanz.ca

2017 Re-election Campaign Volunteer Opportunities:

I need your help. We are building a “Campaign Cabinet” and I want you to be a part of it. In February 2017, after two years I stepped aside as Board Chair. I remain a Trustee, and if the voters will have me, I offer to serve for the 2017-2021 term.
While the election isn’t until October 16th, 2017, there are many opportunities to get involved in helping out with my re-election campaign. We will be planning a campaign launch this spring, starting our door knocking, re-launching our digital campaign, and preparing for the fall election.
Campaigns are incredible learning opportunities, a chance to make new friends and learn tangible skills easily transferred to your career, your work, or (hopefully) future election campaigns. The campaign skills and friendships I made volunteering on Don Iveson’s 2007 City Council campaign still benefit my life to this day.
While “twice-incumbent advantage” is an undeniable asset, we must always campaign like we are 100 votes behind. But our campaign can serve another higher purpose: the chance to engage hundreds of our neighbours in a conversation about improving our school board, our city, and our society.
Join the team by sending me an email michael@michaeljanz.ca with your contact information, a bit about yourself, and how you would like to get involved. Please “like” my page on Facebook, follow me on twitter, and sign up for my newsletter on www.michaeljanz.ca.
With gratitude,
Michael Janz
Trustee Ward F, 2010-2017
Biography, blog, and more inforation: www.michaeljanz.ca

(Video) Understanding Alberta’s Education System: Public education: What should it be, and how do we achieve it?

Former Education Minister David King made waves today when he announced he was mobilizing a campaign (IDEA: Inclusive Diverse Education for All) to unify the Public and Catholic school boards In Alberta (and wrestle with other education issues such as assessment and citizenship). David is still very engaged in the education community and I had the pleasure of hearing him give the keynote at the Education Society of Edmonton earlier this month. You can read more about his campaign and writings here.

Beyond the question of unifying Catholic or Public school districts, if you are interested in learning about our Public education system, why we have Catholic schools, why we don’t have protestant schools, and what the role of community is, I encourage you to check out this series of videos called: Public Education: What it should be, and how do we achieve it?

The video is below broken into 7 parts:

Janet Keeping, President of the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, discusses the situation in Morinville, Alberta, which lacks public secular education.

David King, former Alberta Minister of Education, addresses the question “What is public education for?”

Frank Peters, Professor of Education, University of Alberta, discusses the historical evolution of public education in Alberta.

Linda McKay-Panos, Executive Director, Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, describes the legal framework within which Morinville could be provided with secular public education.

Dan Shapiro, Research Associate, Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, discusses freedom of religion and the lack of a secular public education in Morinville, Alberta.

David King, former Alberta Minister of Education, and Frank Peters, University of Alberta Professor of Education, discuss separate school education in Alberta and the anomalous situation in Morinville, which lacks secular public education.

Patty Dittrick, President, PSBAA, discusses the lack of public secular schooling in Morinville, Alberta.

Jennifer Love speaks on behalf of the Morinville Parent Delegation on the need for secular public education in their Alberta town.

Sheldon Chumir was a lawyer, businessman, civil libertarian and Alberta MLA. Sheldon observed that “leadership exercised by individuals motivated by high ethical purpose can bring about significant change for the betterment of our society.” The Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership is supported by a bequest by Mr. Chumir and carries on his legacy by engaging the public on questions of ethical leadership, especially concerning human rights and civil liberties.

 

 

Fairness and equity for Alberta Public Schools

UPDATE MARCH 21st: The EPSB Approved my motion below unanimously and we sent a letter to the minister of education.

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.

Rationale:

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.

Background:

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.

and:

“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.”

(https://auma.ca/advocacy-services/programs-initiatives/property-assessment-and-taxation-hub/fundamentals-alberta’s-property-assessment-and-taxation-system/fundamentals-property-taxation-system)

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.

https://www.edmonton.ca/residential_neighbourhoods/property_tax_assessment/education-tax.aspx

UPDATED COMMENTS:

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. (http://edmontonjournal.com/news/local-news/school-board-funding-choice-box-should-be-dropped-from-property-tax-forms-says-edmonton-public-board-chairman)

  • 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.  

    http://www.metronews.ca/views/opinion/2016/03/14/canadas-publicly-funded-religious-schools-have-to-go.html

 

 

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 epl.ca/readysetgo.

 

– 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. www.epl.ca/give

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
780-496-7055
hmcintyre@epl.ca

Brad Stromberg
Supervisor, Media Relations
Edmonton Public School Board
780-429-8464
brad.stromberg@epsb.ca

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 (michael@michaeljanz.ca), and I’ll add them to the list!
#1: ELECTED OFFICIALS EDUCATION PROGRAM (AUMA)
 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 — Lynda.com and many more– for free! http://www.epl.ca/teen-subject/learn/

#8: John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights
:
Registration is open for the Human Rights Facilitator Training Program:
http://www.jhcentre.org/news-blog/human-rights-facilitator-training-program?platform=hootsuite

Can we open a Catholic Faith program within the public school system?

(For the EPSB Board Meeting Feb 14th, 2016) Request For Information: Could the Administration inform us whether or not the Minister of Education or (School Act) would permit a public school system to create a Catholic Faith Alternative Program or a Catholic School within the Public School System?
 
The issue of why we don’t have a Catholic program within our EPSB constellation of alternative and choice programs is a question I am frequently asked by my constituents and I have to admit I don’t have a clear answer.
Is a public school board permitted to open a Catholic Faith Alternative Program?
I informally asked the question when I was first elected trustee in 2010, and was told that previous governments and Ministers would not permit Public school boards to create Catholic programs, but puzzlingly they have allowed Catholic districts to offer duplicate programs that are also offered by Public and Francophone school boards.
Before the Board of Trustees directs staff time or dollars on program creation or policy amendments, we should ensure that the Minister of Education would allow us to create a Catholic Faith Alternative program. Edmonton Public would not be in a position to confirm demand for such a program until parents can be assured that such a program can be offered.  The first step in this journey would be understand the direction of the provincial legislature (our formal process for these inquiries is called a “Request for Information”
 
We are proud of our legacy as a district of choice, including our existing excellent faith program choices. EPSB offers more than 30 alternative programming options. Students enrolled in alternative programming receive instruction determined by Alberta Education, with a focus on artsathleticslanguage and culturefaith-based or teaching philosophy.
We have faith-based Christian programs such as Millwoods Christian or the Logos (Christian faith) Program. Talmud Torah offers an integrated program of Judaic and secular studies in a Hebrew bilingual setting. Sakinah Circle programming is based on a philosophy of education derived from the Qur’anic (Islam) worldview.
Currently, There are thousands of students who attend Catholic Schools who aren’t Catholic. In the past, attendance to Catholic School Districts were restricted to only students who were Catholic (baptism certificates were demanded) but this is no longer the case and families, regardless of faith, often move freely between districts. For example, Edmonton Catholic Schools own website states:
Non-Catholics and other non-resident students may enroll at Edmonton Catholic Schools given the adequate availability of resources such as space and suitability of program.

That means of the approximately 40,000 students going to Edmonton Catholic Schools, not all of them are Catholic but might be convinced with the right programming to be included in the 92,000 Edmonton Public Students. If even a few of them chose to return, that could be a significant influx of students and would be especially valuable in mature communities with lower-enrollment schools. Province wide, it could be even more significant especially for rural communities with dwindling populations.

For decades we have supported choices within public school districts. It is important to note that this initiative does not call for the abolition or defunding of the 17 Catholic School Boards in Alberta, but rather contemplates the potential for public school boards to grow and expand faith program offerings. This is no different than EPSB operating French Immersion programs which do not challenge the existence of the constitutionally protected Francophone School boards. The Edmonton Public School Board supports programs of choice where there is a demand and if anything this would mean more faith and more choice, not less!
If permitted by the provincial government, any public school district could create a new program of choice and offer greater selection to parents. This would be especially timely in areas where new schools are in high demand or in mature communities that may be contemplating requesting replacement schools. There may be huge operational and capital savings to the provincial government in future if this idea were further explored. That means more money for front-line education rather than duplicated administration or half-empty or aging schools.
Public school districts are funded on a per-pupil basis, and we need to remain competitive and continue to demonstrate efficiency through economies of scale and administrative effeciencies. As Trustees, we would demonstrate responsiveness to the interests of students, families, and communities. Picture a new Edmonton public school opening with a few classrooms set aside for a Catholic Faith Alternative program— we would be serving the needs of all Edmontonians and potentially saving the province millions of dollars! We would be able to save on capital costs by attracting more students whose only choice might be a distant bus trip to the ECSD system.

There would be significant cost savings to the Alberta government if public schools could offer a Public and Catholic program under one physical and metaphorical roof. If we were able to offer another program, we would be able to save on capital costs by attracting more students whose only choice might be the ECSD system.

What about a Catholic Faith course? If we weren’t able to offer a full Catholic program, maybe as a first step, we could consider the establishment of a Locally Developed “Catholic Faith” course that would provide more choice and welcome more Catholic families back into the Public school system?
What could this mean for the future of school construction? As we look ahead to submitting our annual capital planning request list for new schools, and I reflect on provincial commitments to transparency and sunshine lists, I look forward to exploring the idea of how decisions are made to allocate Public or Catholic schools to new communities and how evidence of parent intent is determined. With the archaic notion of directing one’s taxes to the Public or Catholic school system having no bearing anymore on funding (it’s all pooled and directed based on enrolment) it is time we got creative in finding innovative ways to improve program delivery while demonstrating innovation and efficiency in the use of our education dollars. But that is likely a inquiry for a later date when we discuss our capital planning process.
While we are engaged in a dialogue on curriculum redesign, maybe it’s time to have the bigger question about program or system redesign. To be clear, these are the questions and observations of one trustee, and until a formal vote is taken at the Board table, no program can be created.
So will we be allowed to proceed? Once I receive an answer I will report back.

What do you think? Is this a good idea to explore further? How can we make sure our education system is inclusive, responsive, and efficient?

Michael@michaeljanz.ca

All votes for MLA deserve an equal weight

One vote should have the same weight wherever you are in Alberta.

And whether you are 15,000 voters in South Edmonton or Central Alberta, your votes should count towards electing the same amount of MLAs in the legislature. Currently, there is one riding with 15,000 and another with 46,000 voters, both electing one MLA. With modern technology the outdated rationale used to justify such enormous variances is unacceptable.

With all parties holding seats in rural and urban areas, this is not a partisan issue, but an issue of fairness. I have no doubt that fair representation in the legislature will have a profound impact on ensuring that Edmonton receives the investment in Education that corresponds to our unique challenges. With 30% of our students being English Language Learners, higher percentages of Special Needs Students, and 6000+ new students over the last two years, we need to make sure that our educational needs are given the weight they deserve in provincial expenditure.

On Monday January 16th, I had the opportunity to present as Trustee for Ward F to the Electoral Boundaries Commission. The commission is in the process of reviewing the areas, boundaries, and names of ridings across Alberta. As they note, Alberta’s population has grown 20% over the last eight years.

I touched on a few key points that I wanted to share:

  • One vote in Alberta should count the same, wherever it is cast: Many urban Albertans have been denied a fair voice in affairs affecting their lives. I was told in the past by MLAs that despite having thousands of Edmontonians in new neighbourhoods, it was hard to award new schools to the cities because of the disproportionate influence that the rural MLAs held over budgets and capital planning decisions.
  • The Electoral Boundaries commission should use the most accurate data: Statistics Canada is ready to unveil the data from last year’s census on Feb. 8th but we should also take into account other materials such as the demographic study by Edmonton Public Schools that forecasts thousands more new residents moving to Edmonton communities. If there are to be variances, let us carefully consider the rationale and take into account future growth projections.
  • Complexity Matters: while great geographic distances can be a challenge for some rural MLAs to serve vast constituency areas, elected officials in urban areas also have to take into account complexity and diversity such as socioeconomic status or linguistic barriers. Serving as an elected official in an urban setting can be enormously challenging and connecting with thousands and thousands of constituents who bring unique challenges must be taken into account.
  • Technology Matters: As an elected official, 95% of my correspondence is via email, telephone, and on rare occasion, meetings. It is easier than ever to call your MLA, send correspondence, attend telephone town-halls, and engage through other means and channels. I would be fully in favour of adding additional office supports to help MLAs from larger geographic constituencies engage their communities just as I would want to ensure multi-lingual translators were available to help those with other complexities to engage with their constituents as well.

I ultimately come back to the idea of how much is one vote worth? Imagine if Alberta was one riding and both you and I received one ballot. But for some reason because I lived in a lower populated area, I received an additional ballot. Or two. Or three. That would not be fair.

All politics are local, and ultimately MLAs are profoundly invested in demonstrating to their constituents that they have achieved results for their local needs. This advocacy has a tremendous effect on provincial spending and I’ve seen it most apparent in the inequalities around meeting the needs of our growing city.

If you want to learn more about this issue, here are three links:

Alberta Diary:

Guest Post: Five things you need to know about Alberta’s latest Electoral Boundaries Commission

Daveberta.ca:

I actually disagree with Dave Cournoyer on the 10% threshold and think 5 percent would be a much more reasonable threshold:

When the commission does receive the latest data, I would like to see all electoral districts proposed for the 2019 election be within the 10 percent above or below the average population of all the proposed electoral divisions.

I would also like to see the commission keep the number of special districts to a minimum. I would prefer that no district fall below 25 percent of the average, as increased funding should be allocated to MLAs in geographically larger rural ridings for additional offices, staff and travel costs. But political necessity will likely lead to the existence of one or two of these special exceptions.”

I also note that Public Interest Alberta has posted their Electoral Boundary submission online as well.

Dr. Don Carmichael, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Alberta and Democracy Task Force member, stated, “The problem begins with allowing far too much initial variance (25% above and below the average,) which is then made worse over time by subsequent population shifts, often involving increases in rapidly-expanding urban and suburban settings and declines in rural areas.”

Carmichael added that the current unacceptable situation originated with an attempt to address the problems of ensuring effective representation in large rural ridings with sparse populations. “The justifications for these disparities were better suited to earlier times: when there were few telephones, fewer paved roads, no television, and – crucially – no internet.  These limitations no longer apply.  Today, constituents in the furthest reaches of the province have the capacity to communicate with their representatives as quickly and easily as their urban counterparts.”

I would be curious to hear your thoughts and I’m sure so would the EBC:

michael@michaeljanz.ca