Tag: EPSB

Public Dollars Should Remain in Public Schools

Public Education

Update April 23rd, 2016:

The EPSB Board of Trustees approved my motion as amended. The new amendment read:

That the Board of Trustees reaffirm its commitment to Alternative Programs within Edmonton Public Schools and continues to advocate that the provincial government should phase public funding away from private schools and reinvest it in public education. Furthermore, that the Minister should incorporate charter schools into public school boards.

This replacement motion still encapsulates our principled position on this issue, but also reminds our parents that we are committed to the dozens of choice programs within our public framework.

The debate was very educational. I didn’t know this, but Ontario does not give any public subsidy to public schools. Another reader emailed me this:

The proportion of funding that private schools get is an arbitrary number. Prior to 1998, it was 50% (a proportion that is much more common in other provinces). Jim Prentice was part of a task force that then pushed the number to 60%: http://rabble.ca/…/1998-private-school-funding-report-puts-…

Today’s 70% funding level was made at a closed door caucus meeting held by the PCs in the dead of summer 2008 during the Calgary Stampede – a move surely meant to fly under the radar: http://www.teachers.ab.ca/…/Province%20increases%20private%…

It is interesting to note that the increases to funding had little effect on the proportion of students that attended private schools. I’m quite sure that parents opt for private school independently of how much public funding they receive and that rolling back the funding level would not drive students back to the public system en masse.

 I had a great discussion with one of my parent friends yesterday about private facilities that receive special needs support. I think it is crucial to distinguish that some private schools are very class-based and charge thousands and thousands of dollars of annual tuition. There are others that are publicly subsidized religious schools teaching a very specific denomination or faith. To me these are very clear examples of where church and state should be separated or where giving millions to the millionaires is not warranted. With the third example of special needs school sites, as I stated below, this points to a greater need for public investment in the public school system so every child can receive the education they deserve.
I also had another interesting discussion about public oversight and the lack of transparency from Private/Charter schools. Going beyond the idea that they should be supervised by all citizens (like the public or catholic system), they should also have to be subject to FOIP and the same public disclosure regulations that all other school boards are.

 

With the review of the Education Act, now is the time for Premier Notley and her cabinet to ensure that public tax dollars are best being allocated to support public education.

I support the elimination of public subsidies to private schools immediately. But if the Minister isn’t ready to go there yet, as a compromise position, the minister could phase out the subsidies over a reasonable period of time.

Either way, this is an area that requires review by the Ministry of Education, especially considering there is a new Education Act and severe budget pressures.

This Tuesday (April 19th, 2016) we will be debating my motion:

That the Board of Trustees reaffirm its commitment to the provincial government that public funding to private or charter schools should be phased out and reinvested in public education. (link to Board Package)

Based on the dialogue I’ve been having with parents, I thought I would try to pull together a blog post with some of the background and arguments on this subject I have been hearing:

Understanding the debate:

As was reported in the Calgary Herald, Alberta is the only province to fund charter schools, which receive the same per-student funding as public schools, but don’t qualify for infrastructure and maintenance funding. Private schools are eligible for 60 to 70 per cent of per-student funding.

For clarity, in Alberta public education typically means Public, Separate/Catholic, and Francophone Schools. I seek to continue to support the plethora of choice programs we have within the public school system (French immersion, Mandarin Bilingual, Cogito, Judaic, Islamic, Christian, and dozens more…) but I take exception to our system subsidizing private school education with public tax dollars.

Facing a multi-billion dollar deficit, Premier Notley and Minister Eggen will be carefully trying to figure out how to preserve public education funding in future budgets. The first place they should start is phasing  the $200* million dollars from Private schools back into public education. (*unclear how much funding in totality goes to private schools. I’m examining this year’s funding manual)

Subsidizing private school tuitions is essentially incentivizing a decision that a stakeholder was going to make anyway. This is a frustration I regularly hear from parents and school council members who complain to me about this school segregation. The public school is legally obliged to educate the highest need, most socio-economically challenged, and special needs students, while the private school down the road continues to pick-and-choose their students–and receives  public money to do so.

No one disputes the right of the private school to exist and the social status, ideological or faith reasons the parents hold to send their children to that school. We just remain frustrated that our schools pick up the public burden while they receive the public benefit.

My opposition is both philosophical (segregating and dividing society is anti-democratic and will have long term negative consequences such as in other countries) and logistical (impractical investment, duplication of administration).

Last week, Public Interest Alberta renewed their call for the government to end provincial funding for private schools and absorb charter schools into the provincial school boards. I agree with this call and would encourage you to read their release here:

“We need to direct public funding to schools that operate under democratically elected school boards, which operate with public accountability and transparency of expenditures, rather than to private entities with private agendas.” (said French)

“Private schools have a right to exist, but not to receive public funding,” French stated. “Last year the Alberta government gave over $200 million in public funds to private schools. These are difficult financial times, and that same sum of money could have been used to eliminate school fees for all parents across the province, provide school lunch programs for children living in poverty throughout Alberta, or pay for much-needed programs to support indigenous learners.”

French pointed out that Alberta’s school boards were on record as supporting this direction, with the Alberta School Boards’ Association having passed a formal motion in November 2013 calling on the government to reallocate to public education funding currently given to private schools, in order to better build “a viable, sustainable public education system.”

In terms of Alberta’s charter schools, French called for the government to end the experiment and bring the schools fully into the public education system. “Charter schools were introduced early in the Klein era with the promise that they would promote innovation and provide competition for the public system. Two decades later there are still only thirteen charter schools.  They haven’t delivered on that promise, and no other provinces have gone in this direction because charter schools are not necessary or helpful.”

French pointed out that Alberta has been recognized for developing a culture of school improvement across the province through the former Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI,) and charter schools are simply not needed. “Alberta has a well-developed system of support for alternative schools and programs within our public and separate schools, and Edmonton Public Schools in particular has demonstrated how to accommodate legitimate desires for choice and diversity within the public system.  It is clearly time for charter schools to be absorbed by school boards as part of the public education system, or to become private schools.”

They also posted this handy backgrounder worth reviewing:

Can a private school operator refuse to enrol my child? Yes. A private school operator can refuse to enroll a student. This is because the School Act does not require private school operators to provide education programs to every student.

Do private school operators offer special education programs? Private school operators are not required to admit students with special needs. However, once an accredited funded private school enrolls a student with special education needs, Alberta Education requires the private school operator to provide appropriate education programming for that student for the school year in which that student is enrolled.

Public Interest Alberta noted that this not a new position for public school boards, and Edmonton Public Schools was one of a chorus of school boards who supported eliminating funding for Private schools in 2013 at the Alberta School Boards’ Association:

“Public boards are being strapped a bit for cash and we’re trying to do more with less,” said Helen Clease (ASBA President)… “We don’t have an issue with there being private schools,” Clease added. “But we believe that the public dollars should go to public schools where every child can have access to that education.”

– David Howell, “Private school funds under fire,” Calgary Herald, Nov. 21, 2013

Charter schools were established in an era where there were not choice programs in public school systems. As you can see by the choice offerings in Edmonton or Calgary Public schools, there are dozens and dozens of programs already available within the public system. Charter schools were also intended to produce research — which to my understanding has not been produced. These charter schools could be easily re-incorporated back into the oversight and efficiency of the larger public administration umbrella. Millions of dollars are being spent on duplicated administration of the Charter schools that would not be necessary in the public system.

Quoting David Climenhaga:

“Alberta is the only Canadian province that funds charter schools, which are generally defined as ‘alternative’ schools that receive government money but are really just private schools that are subsidized by taxpayers. There’s a good reason we’re alone on this. It’s a bad policy that takes money from taxpayers to bankroll often dubious and poorly monitored specialty programs, many of which cherry-pick students on such grounds as how likely they are to succeed and how much money their parents have. Practically speaking, it also takes money away from public education. Alberta’s charter schools, which often try to deny their teachers fair pay and union representation, continue to receive the full per-student grant provided to public and separate schools.” David Climenhaga, AlbertaPolitics.ca, April 3, 2016

According to Understanding Canadian Schools (4th Ed) – 

All provinces have at least a few independent (also called private) schools. An independent school can be defined as a school that is not governed by a public school board, and that is selective about whom it admits as students, whether the selection process is based on grounds of ability, religion, or some other criterion. Students are usually charged tuition fees. Most private schools in Canada are religious in orientation. (p. 159)

A few of the arguments on the issue:

1. Private Schools provide a private, not a public good. Private Schools should have a right to exist– but not to receive any public funding.

All Alberta communities are entitled to strong publicly funded schools supported by the public purse, and accountable through elected school boards. It is a basic right and a responsibility of government to provide it to all citizens.

In every community in Alberta there is a public school that, by law, is required to take your student. That means that every student who currently attends a private school has a desk waiting for them at their local designated public school. If their parents want to make the choice to send their children to a different school, or study abroad, or send their children to boarding school in another province, they should have to pay the full-freight of doing so themselves. That is their families choice.

If you ran a business and were unhappy with the local police department, you would have a right to add your own security system, but that would be at your own expense. Just as companies who want additional or alternative security pay for it themselves, so should families who wish to pursue additional education services. If you aren’t happy with your own local library branch, I shouldn’t have to subsidize 70% of your book purchases at Chapters.

Again, I’m not calling for the elimination of Private or Charter schools, merely the public money subsidizing operations. should be used to subsidize the expensive tuitions. Currently Private School tuitions range from $5000 per year to $50,000 or higher. It is unclear to me if there is even a relationship between private school tuition rates and the public subsidy they receive. A reduction in public funding would not automatically mean a tuition increase. It is unclear to me where there profit margins are. Anytime they need to generate more revenue, they can charge their users more. Private schools are also eligible for corporate sponsorships to augment their revenue.

2. Social fragmentation.

There are some who believe that these segregated schools produce negative societal consequences by isolating the “have” from the “have not” kids, and there is extensive research in the United States about the role that private schools play in inequality. There are also some who challenge that Private and Charter schools in Alberta are not teaching the Alberta Curriculum and may not be following provincial legislation in areas such as Bill 10 (Are there Gay Straight Alliances for students who wish to form them?) or comprehensive sexual health education (are they adhering to the fact-based resources available on teachingsexualhealth.ca?).

There are more who have more articulately criticized problems with private schools (leaving out the poor, disadvantaged and special needs children, the high parent tuitions, undermining the democratic fabric of our community, social fragmentation and elitism, and state funding of religion to name a few).

As the late Joe Bower wrote:

James Moffett coined the (unofficial) mantra of private schools with select admissions to be: “Send us winners and we’ll make winners out of them.” 
Alfie Kohn puts it this way: “Institutions that get to choose whom to admit tend to look for the applicants who are good bets to succeed: those who seem smart and compliant, will require the least time and effort, and are most likely to make the school look good. And that means those who most need what your school has to offer are turned away.”
As bad as schools with select admissions are, I can think of few things more morally bankrupt and intellectually indefensible than publicly funded private schools with select admissions. 

 

3. Why are we giving a public subsidy for private choice?

Or then-MLA, now MP Kent Hehr:

“I believe our public school system is an excellent place for kids to learn,” he said. “If people do not want to take part in the public school system, that is their right. But it’s not a corresponding right for the taxpayers to fund that choice for a religious or cultural option.”

Last year, the NDP followed in the steps of the  Tory Government designated $226 million for private schools. Those are public tax dollars from the public education system, designed to education and support all students, given to private school operators as a subsidy. That’s millions of dollars that could support our public school students– many of them who need it the most!

Why are we giving away public tax dollars for the education of private school students and families. We the taxpayers have already build the roads, the schools, the libraries, the community halls, and the hospitals. Why should we now be cutting an enormous cheque to families who could enrol their students in the public  classrooms available to them tomorrow?

According to the AISCA, the lobby group for the Private schools, there are more than 100 private community operated kindergartens and more than 100 private schools in the province, educating approximately 4.5% of the K-12 students in the province. These students have opted out of the public system already and are paying additional tuition and fees. For these families if we removed the public funding that subsidizes their private tuition, some of them would stay at the schools anyway, while some would return to the public system. It would depend on how the private operators decided to adjust tuition as well as other factors. I don’t know if there is a relationship to the cost of their education to tuition charged.

4. Is there capacity within the public education system? Yes! Even if 100% of these students returned to our classrooms, we have room for those students in the public system, and would welcome their return. But if they wish to remain in their private school (which I believe most would because if cost was the motivator they would have gone to a public school in the first place), we respect their choice, but will reallocate the public subsidy back to the public classroom.

Imagine the impact on the most vulnerable students in Alberta if those dollars were reinvested in the public school system?

5. Do private schools save the public system money? No. There is a reason only a few other provinces provide public funding for private schools (and no other province has Charter schools). We would save even more money if those students were paying the full cost of their private tuition (without the 70% public subsidy) as demand for private school is relatively inelastic (regardless of the cost they would still purchase the product at their own expense).
In other words, we are paying them $226 million for something they would likely do anyway. These Parents chose the private school for status, philosophical or religious reasons– not to mention the tax receipt for tuition— over universal, free, public education.

If 70% allegedly saves the system money, what about 60%? or 50%? Or even 40%? A phased approach to reducing funding would keep more money in the system while respecting parent choice.

Returning to the social fragmentation argument– on a philosophical level, even if every single one of those students left their private school tomorrow for a public school desk, I would be prepared to cover the hypothetical slight cost difference because I believe in the fundamental mission of public education– social cohesion, social mobility, and societal advantages that it brings. Our communities are better off when we learn to live together.

6. Any system must have a reasonable limit on choice. Many school systems allow for choices already and as such if the public choice offerings are not sufficient for you and you want to choose a private school, that choice should be yours — including the financial cost. I fully support choices within the publicly funded system. Check out the offering by Edmonton Public or Calgary Public Schools— there are amazing programs within the public system.

Some schools are in very high demand. Some neighbourhoods even have lotteries. Some parents want teacher A over teacher B or program A over program B. But there must be some policy framework that is fair to everyone and isn’t just based on your family’s wealth. If their parents want to make the choice to send their children to a different school, or study abroad, or send their children to boarding school in another province, they should have to pay the full-freight of doing so themselves. That is their family’s choice.

7. What about private special needs programs? There are some who suggest that because certain private schools cater to the special needs students that they should also be given funding. I disagree. If government wants to improve outcomes, they should invest more in the public special needs programs rather than subsidize delivery to the private centres. If families still want to make that choice to go to a specialized site, they should pay the full-freight themselves. A good education shouldn’t be contingent upon your families capacity to pay expensive tuitions to private providers. as we have excellent programs already in our public system that these families can access.

This two-tier, pro-private school mentality is an archaic ideological relic of the culture of past Progressive Conservative Party governments. Restoring public funding to the needy students who need it the most would pay a far greater dividend in terms of our provincial well-being than subsidizing the tuition of those families who can afford to pay more anyway.

8. The NDP have not traditionally supported public funding for private schools. What have other political parties said?

The Alberta Party, the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Greens have all called for an end to public subsidy of private and charter schools. Janet Keeping wrote this blog post on the Green Party of Alberta blog: 

In no country is this function of public education more important than here in Canada where we have one of the most diverse populations in the world.  Learning to appreciate, live with and make decisions together with others from very different backgrounds – perhaps most importantly, with children from families of very different degrees of poverty or wealth – is essential to keeping our society functioning in a sympathetically democratic way.  This is accomplished in large part through a public education system.

Private schools on the other hand segregate children along lines that inhibit the development of that democratic sympathy, for example, along religious, gender, cultural and wealth lines. 

Unfortunately, at this time, it seems that the NDP has no plan to roll back funding for private charter schools at this time: http://calgaryherald.com/news/politics/no-plans-to-change-funding-model-for-private-charter-schools-says-education-minister

9) What about other school boards or education advocates?
Private School funding is still a matter of controversy. I repost a comment from Bruce Pettigrew former Chair and Trustee with Rockyview Schools that he posted to the Calgary Herald Story:

I cannot understand why the Alberta taxpayer has to subsidize the private choice of a few people at the expense of the public good. Private schools and many charter schools are by their mandate and nature exclusionary. They ‘cherry pick’ their students, increase fees so they can deliver smaller class sizes, and then claim to be doing a ‘better’ job than the public schools which welcome all students regardless of ability.

The Alberta taxpayer gives out something to the tune of 275 MILLION $ for this small group. Granted it will be argued that these students would be in the public system if
they were not in private schools but I would counter that many would remain in the private/charter system regardless. As well I acknowledge that there are a few charter/private schools that take very difficult students but I believe with proper funding of special needs those students would be equally successful in the public system.

A final note regarding Charter Schools. When the Charter schools were first proposed and charters granted they were to operate on the basis of delivering definable improvements for students as opposed the the public system. They were to be evaluated regularly by the Department and, if not delivering, the charter was to be revoked. I do not believe this has ever happened in Alberta (fraud and financial malfeasance excepted). Where is the accountability for the extra funding of charter schools?

Education leaders have long been critical of public subsidies for private schools. Here is a letter from 2008:

The Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA), the College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS), the Association of School Business Officials of Alberta (ASBOA), and the Alberta School Councils Association (ASCA) jointly will be sending a letter to Premier Ed Stelmach expressing our concerns and requesting that he reconsider the decision to increase public funding for private schools.

The main message to the premier is this: Private schools can pick and choose students, do not have to follow the same rules as public schools and are not accountable to any elected authority. More privatization of our education system is the wrong path to follow, if for no other reason than it encourages inequity in the education of children.

From: Heather Wellwood, president, Alberta School Boards Association; Paulette Hanna, president, College of Alberta School Superintendents; Russell Horswill, president, Association of School Business Officials of Alberta; and Trina Boymook, president, Alberta School Councils Association

For further history into the connections between Jim Prentice, the PC Party, and Private Education, please see David Climenhaga’s excellent Backgrounder on this subject:

If you are looking for information from Alberta Education, please see: https://education.alberta.ca/parents/choice/private.aspx

To support other public education advocates trying to support strong public schools, connect with:
http://www.supportourstudents.ca/ and read their op-ed response: https://www.facebook.com/notes/support-our-students-alberta/open-letter-to-calgary-herald-editorial-board/1743550082592372


As always, I would like to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to send me an email: michael@michaeljanz.ca

You can also contact your local school trustee at www.epsb.ca.

Board Votes Unanimously in Favor of School Advocacy Plan

Today was our first 2014 EPSB Board Meeting and I have much good news to share. First of all I am greatly honored by my trustee colleagues for re-electing me as EPSB Vice-Chair. I’m excited by the opportunity to serve the board once again in this capacity and support Sarah Hoffman as she serves as the Re-elected Board Chair.
The second piece of pride for me at this meeting was that our board voted UNANIMOUSLY in support of steps that our board will take to advocate for new schools that our communities badly need. School space issues are by far one of the biggest pressures on our district and our city — the fastest growing city in Alberta.
As trustees we need to make sure that we explain to our community the steps we have taken as a board and how we are doing everything within our power. We also need to engage with our community and ensure that we are speaking in stereo in our new school advocacy.
The board spoke unanimously: we want to work together with all other elected officials (our MLAs and City Councillors) to clearly communicate the space needs of current and future Edmonton Public Students. We are all in this together!
 Carried Unanimously:

That the Edmonton Public School Board:

a)  Share a copy of the 2015-2018 Three-Year Capital Plan with each Edmonton memberof the Legislative Assembly, the three Progressive Conservative Party leadership candidates and Edmonton City Council.

b)  Request to meet in person with them to develop a strategy to support them in their advocacy for Edmonton’s urgent school space and transportation needs for Edmonton children.

c)  Urge them to provide a timeline for construction and immediately prioritize the construction of new schools for Edmonton in accordance with the District’s Three- Year Capital Plan Year One priorities:

    1. K-6 Windermere Estates
    2. K-9 The Grange (Glastonbury or Granville)
    3. K-9 Heritage Valley (Allard or Chappelle)
    4. K-9 Ellerslie/The Orchards
    5. Mature Neighbourhood Replacement school as determined by the Infrastructure Strategy
    6. K-6 Meadows (Laurel)
    7. K-9 South East (Walker)
    8. K-9 Lewis Farms (Secord)
    9. K-9 Heritage Valley (Allard or Chappelle)
    10. Mill Creek School Replacement/Modernization

d) Provide an update to them on the announced 2016 modernization and construction projects and urge their support in expediting this work.

e) Urge the Government to work with school boards to create a clear and transparent process for the awarding of capital projects and new schools. 


 

Supporting documentation from EPSB.ca:

NEW SCHOOLS

On May 2, 2013, the Government of Alberta announced funding for two new district schools through theBuilding Alberta’s School Construction Program. On February 10, 2014, funding for three additional school projects was announced, including two new schools and an expansion to Lillian Osborne School.

All five projects were submitted as new construction priorities in the Three-Year Capital Plan 2014-2017.

The new schools are:


MODERNIZATIONS

On January 21, 2014, the Government of Alberta announced funding for four school modernization projects and a replacement school for Edmonton Public Schools. These projects were submitted as modernization priorities in the Three-Year Capital Plan 2014-2017.

The modernization projects will be for the following schools:


REPLACEMENT SCHOOL

On June 24, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved Superintendent Robertson’s recommendation to build a new replacement school in the Greater Lawton area on the Rundle site. Read more about the replacement school project, including features of the replacement school.

Trustee Janz selected as one of Edmonton’s “Top 40 Under 40”

Last week I was honoured by Avenue Edmonton as one of their “Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40” for 2012.

You can read the full article here:

http://www.avenueedmonton.com/top-40-under-40/michael-janz

Thank you to the Avenue Edmonton Team, 3Ten Photo, Cheryl Mahaffy and the anonymous nominators who put my name forward to receive this award.

Are School Trustees Urban Planners?

Are school trustees urban planners? No.

Do decisions made by school board trustees impact city planning? Absolutely.

Twitter: Nov 7th 2012: “@michaeljanz: For the record- last tue at #epsb I argued to include new schools in our capital plan. There are kids in the SW #yeg who really need them.”

Part of the reason I ran for the school board was that I wanted to see a more integrated approach to how we build our communities– with the provincial, municipal, and school boards working together. Although it doesn’t get the same headlines as school closure related issues, I’m thrilled that our board has been working hard on many initiatives for kids like the anti-bullying work, special needs task force, and district priorities. 90% of my time I’m dealing with Education Policy related matters and hence why I’ve chosen to pursue a Masters in Education Policy Studies and not a Masters in urban planning!

I’m glad our board had the opportunity to participate in the community sustainability task force and I hope it leads to more collaborative planning in the future. I look forward to a more coordination and discussion in the future!

Like city council, we need to understand that a city is a complex organism and decisions made by one level of government have dramatic effects upon other entities. Political decisions made in isolation can trigger trickle-down effects that severely impact the work of other levels of government.

If the School Board decides to open a new school, change a neighbourhood school to a magnet site, move yellow bus service, or close a school, all of these decisions have urban planning applications for the whole neighbourhood. Conversely, if the city is going to make transportation decisions that lead to unsafe streets around schools, even though that decision isn’t the jurisdiction of school trustees, you can bet that they should speak up!

Edmonton’s growth plan (in practice) continues to be sprawl-baby-sprawl and has not made family and seniors-friendly infill densification a priority. There’s some nice language in The Way We Grow but in reality development continues outside rather than inside the Henday. Continuing to green-light more sprawl neighbourhoods creates enormous pressure on school boards to meet the educational needs of families who are living further and further away from existing schools.

In the short term, I do support new schools in areas of need. In the long-term, I hope that we will be able to incentivize more families to return to existing neighbourhoods where we have already paid for services. But this won’t happen overnight, and the buck stops with the city of Edmonton and the capital region board on growth decisions. Until then, wherever the children live in Edmonton, we have an obligation to ensure they receive a top-notch Edmonton Public education.

If the city changed its development priorities we could get more families back into our mature neighbourhoods, keep schools open, and save money. The school board could save on transportation and hire more teachers instead. It’s the fiscally prudent thing to do.

If established communities want to keep their schools open— Separate or Public—then we need to make it easy for the kids to live where the schools already are.

The Mayor is right, we do need a variety of housing choices in the city, but we also need a variety of housing choices in the neighbourhoods we have already built! We’ve already invested billions of dollars in the core of our city in our schools, playgrounds, parks, and pools, let’s not let it waste and crumble!

Helping life get better for LGBTTQ students, staff and families within Edmonton Public Schools.

In March the Edmonton Public School Board voted 8-1 to create a policy to create a policy that would help fight bullying and ensure safe spaces for all students, especially those who are (or are perceived to be) sexual minority staff, students, and families.

I voted to support the creation of this policy and am pleased to see our board taking steps to ensure safe and caring learning environments for all students, staff, and families of our diverse student population.

I have had the privilege of speaking to many students, staff, and families who self-identify as sexual minorities and have heard touching stories about how even just knowing that this policy is in creation has increased their families feelings of safety and security.

Our board took a strong stance to support the diverse needs aboriginal learners, fight racism with our multicultural policy, and now we are taking action on the disturbing research surrounding the bullying of sexual minorities.  Hence, the recommendation:

RECOMMENDATION

That the Policy Review Committee develop a policy that affirms the District’s commitment to providing a welcoming environment, free of discrimination and harassment, for all students and employees who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual/transgendered and queer (LGBTQ). The Committee shall look at LGBTQ policies of the Greater Victoria School District and Vancouver School Board as examples, and seek input from students, staff and members of the public.

Moving forward: The policy was drafted and posted for extensive public consultation. In June and September the Policy Committee then met to review the policy and determine if the policy fulfilled the direction of the board.

The recommended policy is now being brought forward to the Board Meeting on Tuesday, November 8th at 2PM. Our meetings are open to the public and webcast on www.livestream.epsb.ca.

The board is now debating whether the proposed board policy fulfills the direction given by the motion we passed in March. Some of the questions I’m thinking about as I review this policy are:

  • Does this policy support creating a welcoming environment, free from discrimination and harassment? What else should be included in this policy?
  • What changes might help strengthen this policy?
  • Will this provide clear direction to administration about how we can provide a welcoming environment for all students in our schools?
  • Will this policy help prevent the bullying of “straight” kids too? (research has shown that many victims of homophobic bullying are actually straight students!)

If you would like to speak to the policy, please call 780-429-8080. If you would like to contact your trustee or email the board with your feedback please email trustees@epsb.ca. If you would like to share your thoughts just with me: michael@michaeljanz.ca.

If you would like to read the full text and learn more: http://www.epsb.ca/board/november08_2011/item10.pdf

Here is the proposed Policy:

PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATION STATEMENT

The Board is committed to establishing and maintaining a safe, inclusive, equitable, and welcoming learning and teaching environment for all members of the school community. This includes those students, staff, and families who identify or are perceived as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, queer or questioning their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. The Board expects all members of this diverse community to be welcomed, respected, accepted, and supported in every school.

All members of the school community have the right to learn and work in an environment free of discrimination, prejudice, and harassment. This right is guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Alberta Human Rights Act, and Alberta School Act. These rights shall be supported, and enforced so that all members of the school community may work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation for individual differences. The Board will not tolerate harassment, bullying, intimidation, or discrimination on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

The Board believes that all sexual and gender minority students, staff, families and same- sex parented families have the right to:

be treated fairly, equitably, and with dignity and respect; have their confidentiality protected and respected; self-identification and determination; freedom of conscience, expression, and association;

be fully included and represented in an inclusive, positive, and respectful manner by all school personnel;

have equitable access to the same supports, services, and protections provided to heterosexual students and families;

have avenues of recourse (without fear of reprisal) available to them when they are victims of harassment, prejudice, discrimination, intimidation, bullying, and/or violence; and

have their unique identities, families, cultures, and communities included, valued and respected within all aspects of the school environment.

The Board is committed to implementing measures that will: 1Define appropriate expectations, behaviours, language, and actions in order to prevent discrimination, prejudice, and harassment through greater awareness of, and responsiveness to, their harmful effects.

Ensure that all such discriminatory behaviours and complaints will be taken seriously, documented, and dealt with expeditiously and effectively through consistently applied policy and procedures.

Improve understanding of the individual lives of sexual and gender minorities and their families, culture, and communities.

Develop, implement, and evaluate inclusive educational strategies, professional development opportunities, and administrative guidelines to ensure that sexual and gender minorities and their families are welcomed and treated with respect and dignity in all aspects of the school community.

The Board understands that institutional and cultural change occurs over time and believes that the provision of an annual report at a public board meeting on progress related to the strategic directions and benchmarks identified in this policy will ensure accountability and demonstrate the District’s commitment to supporting our diverse communities.

EPSB Board Highlights 2010-2011

Edmonton Public School Board Highlights 2010-2011

Click to enlarge and view 2010 EPSB Priorities

Please take a look at the attached .jpg containing some of our highlights from the 2010-2011 year.

As the board reconvenes tomorrow for our first fall meeting, it is important to take a moment to reflect on what we have accomplished since November and look ahead at the year to come. I feel on many issues our board has made significant headway, but there is still much that I would like to accomplish.

As I wrote in my first blog post, our mental concentration can be like a flashlight beam. If you don’t focus your efforts and energies on the big issues that matter most, you can get derailed by administrivia and smaller, less-pressing matters.

What most needs doing?

I pose the question to you and encourage you to email me michael.janz@epsb.ca with your own suggestions and priorities. If you haven’t signed up for our Ward F newsletter, click here.

EPSB Board of Trustees

2010 – 2011 Highlights

The previous school year was a productive one for Edmonton Public Schools’ Board of Trustees. Trustees focused on engaging with Edmonton communities and ensuring all students have a safe and caring learning environment.

• Developed the new District vision, mission and set of priorities

• Introduced live webcasting of public board meetings (www.livestream.com/edmontonpublicschools)

• Imposed a two-year moratorium on school closures and initiated the formation of a School Closure Moratorium Committee to explore ways to keep schools open

• Created a Special Needs Task Force that provided recommendations to promote an inclusive learning environment for students with special needs

• Participated in the Community Sustainability Task Force

• First Board in Prairies to approve the development of a board policy on sexual orientation and gender identity to ensure a welcoming environment for all students and staff

• Established an Anti-Bullying Advisory Committee that provided recommendations to prevent bullying

• Re-prioritized capital plan to place a high priority on modernizing existing schools

• Continued work with all orders of government and other partners to advocate for adequate, predictable and sustainable funding for education

Ward F Back to School Pool Party & Ward F Gathering Sept. 21st

Many of you know I’m passionate about swimming and saving Scona Pool and I’m passionate about parties! This ward gathering will bring together our schools and communities– but with a fun twist for the whole family!

You can grab a hot dog and your kids can party in the pool while you meet and mingle with other passionate education supporters, community leagues, elected resources and much more.  I hope this makes it just a little bit easier for busy families to attend as there will be plenty of things to do for the whole family!

Download the PDF and send it to your communities: 2011Ward F Public School Trustee Michael Janz invites you to

Stop in for a visit, or come for the full two hours! And if you can’t make it, there are great Scona Pool activities happening all week!

Event: Sept 14th Ward Gathering Discussion: the New Education Act

I am pleased to announce that Trustee Ripley and I are co-hosting a discussion on the New Education Act on Wednesday September 14th from 7-9PM with special guest, The Honourable Dave Hancock.

The School Act is the master document that sets all direction for education in Alberta. From the age that students graduate to the regulations surrounding bullying, this document lays out the guiding principles for all school districts around the province, Public Francophone, and Separate.

I would encourage you to RSVP 780-887-1002 and come and partake in the discussion. It is a great opportunity for all citizens to come and give their feedback about education in Alberta. It is also a great time for us to talk a little bit more specifically about some of the implications of the act on our neighbourhoods and on our schools.

If you have questions or comments please don’t hesitate to call me: michael@michaeljanz.ca

** Once you RSVP you will receive a backgrounder with more information about the act, the event, and a brief summary of the discussions so far**

***Trustee Ripley has posted a few links and thoughts to her blog: http://catherineripley.ca/education-act/ Check it out!***

“Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities.” ‘NSTEP, and student health in the summer media

Do you know how many sugar cubes are in one “Big Gulp?”    Answer at the end of the post.

Did you hear about this kid? CJ is a 10 year old fitness guru.

Healthy schools, healthy communities…

When I think back to high school, I know I was in the best shape of my life, and I know the school environment played a significant role in reinforcing healthy living and healthy eating.

I’m pleased to say that wellness is one of our five district priorities #4: promote health and wellness for all students and staff.


Health and Wellness is a topic I hope to be writing more about over the next few months, especially as the subject of my next Ward Gathering will he “Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities.” (The last Ward Gathering was on attracting more families to our neighbourhoods. Click here to read the summary.)

Details are unfolding but this event will likely be in the south portion of our ward in November, and will be a joint gathering with Trustee Ripley who represents the neighbourhoods south of us. With so many events going on in the city, we want to make these gatherings as effective and efficient for all of our community and school leaders!

‘NSTEP: Nutrition, Students, Teachers Exercising with Parents

A few weeks ago I had the chance to take in a joint presentation to Alberta Health, Edmonton Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools representatives from the N’STEP program. ‘NSTEP and other programs like it are simple, practical, and can not just improve the lives of students, but can also help bring healthy living home for the whole family!

To learn more about ‘Nstep, check out this video and their website:

Healthy Schools in the Media:

Considerable discussion has been happening in the letters section of the journal about childhood obesity.

Nationally, the student health issue has been attracting some concern and is seen by many as a proactive investment to keep our health care costs down.

Ontario report examines new and better ways to improve health care system while ensuring accessibility and affordability; urges government to expand or introduce mandatory nutrition and physical education programs for students in grades 1 to 12.

Also in the Globe & Mail:  Why aren’t our kids out playing?

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/fitness/exercise/fitness-trends/schools-out-why-arent-your-kids-out-playing/article2083582/

Locally, check out these letters for two different points of view about the role of the school in the wellness of our community:

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/schools/5142714/story.html

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/opinion/letters/More+phys+better+learners/5177348/story.html

Got feedback? Please leave a comment below!

What do you think about the importance of health and wellness in our school system?

What partnerships do you think should be emphasized between Alberta Health Services and our school system?

How can our communities do more to support health and wellness?

What can we do to reclaim our public spaces and encourage citizens of all ages to just get out there and play?

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Oh and that Big Gulp? 53. 53 Cubes of Sugar. The good folks at  ‘Nstep taught me that. Yikes.

If you read one book this summer: The New City by John Lorinc

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

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

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

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

Learning Cities

If healthy neighbourhoods are the building blocks of cities, strong public schools are the glue that holds diverse urban communities together. Besides their core educational function, the public school system remains the only institution in our society where children, teens, and adults from vastly different cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds can come together in a non-comercial environment for extended periods, during which they’ll learn at least as much from one another as they will from their teachers. Their parents may be set in their views, comfortable with their prejudices, and redesigned to their limits. Not so for their children: Canada’s urban schools are social combustion chambers brimming with the energy that has long typified the cosmopolitan culture of international trading cities.

Nor can their role as public spaces be underestimated. School playgrounds and sports fields double as local parks. Community associations, ethnocultural organizations, and adult education programs will use the facilities in the evenings for their own programs. Youth groups rent their gymnasiums and swimming pools. Some school libraries provide public internet access. Parents form networks, webs of casual social relationships that exist somewhere between friendship and nodding acquaintance. (It was a network of outspoken parent activists, People for Education, that played a pivotal role in toppling the Mike Harris regime, with its stridently anti-public-education policies.)

Schools bring neighbourhoods out for fun fairs, concerts, musicals, sporting events, cleanup days. Local businesses proudly sport signs showing that they’ve donated to a school fundraising drive. Children gather in the auditorium to listen to a local police officer, firefighter, or public health nurse.

In short, a lot goes on in and around big city schools besides schooling and their well-being is intimately connected to their surrounding neighbourhoods.

Page 82-83.

http://www.amazon.ca/New-City-John-Lorinc/dp/0143056042

As Trustees, we must seek to understand and work with other municipal partners and agencies to try and address the plethora of factors impacting student performance and achievement. The challenges and pressures that come with municipal and provincial socio-economic pressures in our changing city have significant impacts on our public education system.

During my November results review, I met with a Principal from a school in a poorer area of the North East. I asked her what might help the kids in her school succeed. She indicated that they were from a “harder” part of town with more substance abuse, more violence, and learning was often the last thing on their fragile minds.

Little things she said, like making sure the kids had breakfast that morning made a significant difference. It was a stark reminder that there is often more behind the achievement test scores than gets reported.

John Lorinc nails how strong schools and strong communities go hand-in-hand and anyone concerned with the future of our city, province, or nation should read this book.

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Of course I welcome other reading suggestions. Leave them in the comments below!

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