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…
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.