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

Updated Feb 23rd 2017:

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. 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

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

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

 

Education of the head and the heart: THINKEQUAL and Edmonton Public Schools

As a Trustee I have the opportunity to attend many fantastic events and hear many fascinating speakers. One such example was the Mahatma Ghandi Canadian Foundation for World Peace who invited me as a guest to their awards banquet and to hear their guest speaker Leslee Udwin, the award-winning director of the film India’s Daughters and now the Founder and CEO of an organization called THINKEQUAL.

If you haven’t seen India’s Daughters, it is a powerful film that outlines the importance of education of not just the mind but the heart. This film is centred around the 2012 Delhi gang rape and murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh who was a physiotherapy student that sparked protests and debate across India.

Following the film, Leslee has dedicated her energy to her non-profit THINKEQUAL providing a spectrum of resources and supports to education around the world (for free):

We believe in a holistic approach to education to support a new generation of Global Citizens in the context of the UN’s post-2015 Sustainable Development goals. Our purpose is to add Social and Emotional Learning as a compulsory new subject on national curricula around the world. This education must start from the very beginning  of every child’s formal education. THINK EQUAL aims for a long overdue system change in education.

They outlined four goals:

  • Educate rounded, sensitive, empowered, respectful, more equitable and inclusive young men and women.
  • Provide children with the tools to succeed on a lifelong journey of learning, and equip them to promote these values in their communities.
  • Empower girls to unlock their potential, and to contribute to the development and the economy of countries.
  • Transform mind sets and create a new generation of human rights and equality advocates in all school-going youth over the next decade.

The Edmonton THINKEQUAL Delegation (comprised of many active Edmonton citizens such as

  • Robert Philp, Chief Commissioner Alberta Human Rights Commission and Chair, Think Equal Edmonton
  • Sarah Chan, Think Equal volunteer
  • Bev Park, Think Equal volunteer
  • Jan Fox, Think Equal volunteer
  • Judy Piercey, Think Equal volunteer
  • Satya Das, Think Equal volunteer
  • Liz O’Neil, Think Equal volunteer

presented to the Edmonton Public School Board in December and we are excited to learn more about the work that they will be doing as they move forward. They have partnered with NAIT and will be distributing digital lessons and content for dissemination beyond the classroom walls.

They have assembled a star list of supporters and advocates ranging from Celebrities to education thought-leaders like Ken Robinson.

Here is a speech Leslee Edwin gave at the United Nations General Assembly:

http://webtv.un.org/search/science-well-being-and-the-pursuit-of-happiness-novus-summit-2016-green-cape-part-2/5041709037001?term=novus%20summit&languages=0&sort=date&page=2

 

As we move ahead with discussions about Curriculum Redesign in Alberta it is important to consider how we will be teaching empathy and equity. Education is the reproduction of lessons and ideas from one generation to the next, and we have a unique opportunity to think about how we can produce a more thoughtful, caring, and compassionate society.

Bev Parks Executive Director of the Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre shared with the Board during her presentation:

“I am pleased to be here today on behalf of the C5 partnership which consists of Boyle Street Community Services, Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society and Terra Centre for parenting teens   and ourselves; Norwood Child and Family Resources Centre.  We are excited to be entering into a partnership with THINK EQUAL.  We have reviewed the curriculum and even sent it to our friend Dr. Jack Shonkoff at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and to Nancy Mannix at the Palix Foundation and the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative both working in the related areas of childhood development to improve global health by mobilizing science in this area. 

We believe that the THINK EQUAL early years curriculum supports the programming we do under the Government of Alberta’s early year’s framework.  It also aligns with the Government of Alberta Children’s Charter and of course the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

I truly believe we are being handed a gift that can position Edmonton as a “Human Rights City “and Alberta as a province that continues to lead the way for this country to ensure our children have optimal opportunities to develop their full potential – to freely express themselves and have their views respected; AND to respect one another and to live free of discrimination.  It is never too early to role model and support children to believe in themselves, respect what is different in each other and to celebrate that verses shying away from it.

Our children are our future and we all need to invest in them especially in those very early years.

Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre has agreed to be the first Alberta 3-5 year old demonstration site for THINK EQUAL through our Head Start programs and I believe we will see some great outcomes for our children’s social and emotional development. “

Minister of Indigenous Relations Richard Feehan also shared the following message:

As the MLA for Edmonton-Rutherford, I support the values and mission of Think Equal. I’ve witnessed structural inequality in Alberta, both in my decades as a social worker and in my role as Minister of Indigenous Relations. I can tell you how funding and infrastructure deficits affect Indigenous communities. But prejudice, discrimination and racism – overt and subtle – are also a daily reality.

Think Equal aims to “break the cycle of negative stereotypes.” This aligns with my Ministry’s goal of empowering Indigenous people through “effective relationships, legislation, policies and initiatives.” Our government is taking concrete steps to break problematic cycles, whether it’s through enhanced curriculum and training, implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or increased economic opportunities.

A comprehensive human rights curriculum would be another significant step forward, an opportunity to enhance learning and cultivate a fully inclusive society. As a way of addressing structural inequality, I urge you to consider implementing Think Equal”

THINKEQUAL is taking steps to further this conversation worldwide, and as your public school trustee, I am excited to be a part of the conversation.

 

 

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:

Teacher Bargaining, ASBA and a proposed 50% cut to ASBA Membership fees

Teacher Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA)

I spent this afternoon with the (TEBA) Teacher Employer Bargaining Association today in Red Deer. Now that bargaining has been centralized/formalized, a new teacher bargaining process has started through TEBA. Due to confidentiality guidelines, matters pertaining to land, labour, and law are to be kept confidential.

Chinooks Edge School Division provided us a letter today that they gave to the Minister urging any matters settled should remain fully-funded by the provincial government in order to ensure current levels of service.

I don’t have much to add at this time, except to update that conversations are underway.

ASBA Spring General Meeting 2016

Tomorrow it is the ASBA Spring General Meeting in Red Deer. This is the annual budget meeting when the 61 members school boards of the ASBA come together to pass a budget. With our advocacy being done via board-to-board collaboration like funding for Syrian Refugees, and TEBA established as the bargaining vehicle, this budget is effectively a subsidy from our classrooms. It will be interesting to see how much has changed, if anything, since I resigned as ASBA Vice-President this time last year over concerns over fiscal accountability.

At Edmonton Public we delegate and share our board, committee, and representative work. While our ASBA concerns are unanimously shared by all 9 EPSB trustees, given my passion for strengthening our provincial advocacy opportunities, I’ve been board chair spokesperson on this file but our concerns are certainly unanimous.

EPSB PROPOSES 50% ASBA MEMBERSHIP FEE REDUCTION:

With the unanimous support of the Edmonton Public School Board, we will be proposing a fifty (50%) membership fee reduction in the annual ASBA membership fee paid by school boards.

Given the significant concerns school boards have had over the last few years, this is an opportunity for the ASBA to demonstrate fiscal accountability, restore more money to school boards, and reduce the feelings of ill-will by some of the members that feel “held captive“.

There are a couple of other proposals we will be bringing forward if time permits which will help enhance accountability of the ASBA such as a new “benefit plan” membership plan category, and providing an audio recording of ASBA board meetings.

FOLLOW ALONG

The ASBA meeting is public and open to the media—Red Deer Sheraton Hotel. Details here: http://www.asba.ab.ca/sgm-2016/.

I’ll be trying to live tweet under #asba or #asbaSGM16 for my board colleagues back in Edmonton.

ASBA Budget 2016 SGM 2 ASBA Budget 2016 SGM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did offer to stay: Letter: 07-october-13-2015-letter-from-epsb-to-asba-re-meeting-followup

Education Act delay is a very good thing.

I was very pleased to hear the news today that Minister Eggen is delaying the proclamation of the Education Act and would encourage him to do so indefinitely.

Personally, I have always felt that the idea of a wholesale new Education Act felt to me like a more politically motivated exercise on the part of former Ministers– I never really understood the justification that “we need a new Act because the old Act is old”.

In practical terms, this means school boards, parents, and community members continue to have predictability under the School Act. The evidence from national and international comparisons demonstrates that Alberta’s education system is among the best in the world. That sort of performance only exists when there are capable school boards, strong and wise government support, and a legislative scheme that promotes and enables the very best from our education professionals in the classroom. We have one of the best educational jurisdictions in the world and it was unclear to me what the proposed Education Act would contribute that School Act amendments could not.

Minister Eggen now has a unique opportunity to put the Government’s values into legislation, not by proclaiming the Education Act, but by retaining and continuing to amend the School Act after the fashion ably done by your government in the recent past. Just a few examples are the new student code of conduct (section 12), mandatory support for GSA’s (section 16.1), a more balanced view of parental involvement (section 16.2), guidance on bullying prevention (43.1 and 45.1), and moving the provisions relating to giving notice to parents regarding religious and sex ed instruction from the Alberta Human Rights Act to the School Act.

My advice to Minister Eggen would be to honor the feedback given by stakeholders in the Education Act process by making systematic, thoughtful, individual amendments to legislation. Proclaiming the act as-is without amendments could have been a very risky move and a cause of significant turmoil.

The status quo is not broken: the School Act works. Make your own amendments in a measured and thoughtful way. Your focus is needed on many more pressing concerns. While there are numerous areas in our education system myself and other education activists, constituents, teachers, principals and parents would like to improve (school health, nutrition, wellness, achievement, FNMI, ELL, arts, early learning……) the solution to these issues isn’t a wholesale replacement of our governing legislation. Predictable legislation and predictable funding go hand in hand.

Now… about new schools for Edmonton…

BACKGROUND

The letter I received this afternoon: (June 3rd, 12:25PM)

Over the past several months, I have been conducting an extensive review of the Education Act and its proposed regulations. Throughout this process it has become clear to me further discussion and collaboration is needed on specific policy shifts that would take effect should the Education Act be proclaimed.

As such, the School Act will remain in effect for the 2016/17 school year. This legislation has served Albertans well, and will continue to do so.

In the coming months, I will engage our education partners to further discuss education legislation.

I truly appreciate the time and effort you and your organizations, as well as many other Albertans, have put into the Education Act to date. A wealth of information and insight has been gathered and will, I assure you, continue to be put to good use as we continue our legislative review.

In the coming months, I will have more information about the format, timing and scope of future discussions regarding the Education Act. In the meantime, I would ask that you share this information, as you deem necessary, with students, parents and others impacted by the School Act remaining in effect.

Lastly, I want to restate that our government is committed to the education of our children. We demonstrated this through the providing of stable and predictable funding in Budget 2016, funding that we know will be put to good use as our attention shifts to the 2016/17 school year.

I thank you, as always, for your contributions to K-12 education in our province. I believe, by working together, we will ensure that legislation will continue to meet the needs our students.

Sincerely,

David Eggen

Minister