Backgrounder: Internet for all

TAKE ACTION:

In the short term, we need internet rate subsidies and measures to make internet more affordable. In the medium term, we need to join with partners in advocating for municipal broadband. 

Be it resolved that:

1) the Edmonton Public School Board advocate for the establishment of municipal broadband, modelled on the example of Connect Toronto and other publicly-owned telecommunications initiatives across North America. 

2) That the Edmonton Public School Board advocate to the federal and provincial governments for immediate initiatives to increase accessibility, quality and reduce the cost of internet for students, staff, and families.

Next steps: 

  • That the EPSB write a letter of support to the federal government for the $50/month “Canadian Broadband Benefit” (CBB) as outlined by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Further, we would support the Internet for all campaign by ACORN Canada which demands $10/month high-speed internet for low-income families. 
  • We would ask that these actions be championed by our provincial school board organizations (such as the ASBA and PSBAA) to ensure equitable internet/technology-based learning access for all Albertans.

 

For example, supporting the CBB as advocated by ACORN Canada and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre would see a payment to reduce internet bills by $50/month for low-income Canadians and those Canadians qualifying for the CERB benefit. It would largely parallel the $50USD benefit recently approved in Congress for Americans facing barriers.

Join the Internet For All campaign here and Join the Get Canada Connected Coalition here.

We can do much better. Locally, I am unimpressed by the TELUS Internet for Good program, as it requires proof of family income below $31,120 per year, which is (punishingly) low. This service also only provides a maximum of 25 megabytes of download service, which is below the CRTC's minimum recommended threshold of a 50 megabit connection for a typical household. This program merely offers half of a proper internet connection to the absolute poorest families. This is inadequate, as it is too slow and excludes too many people. TELUS' yearly net income regularly exceeds $1 billion.

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Media: Surplus School Sites and Public Funding for Private Schools

Speaking Municipally Podcast:

We're joined by EPSB Ward F Trustee Michael Janz to discuss surplus school sites and a little-known public school board power to levy new taxes.

Listen here: https://share.transistor.fm/s/871ad2b2


Should education funding be placed on the municipal ballot?

During my visit with the grade six civics classes, I explain that almost 100% of the public education budget is provided by the the Provincial Government.

I was surprised to learn that there is another mechanism school boards may attempt to gain revenue: a special school tax levy. (Read More)

 

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Helping Stop Neighbourhood Crime

As an Edmonton Public School Trustee, I’ve been engaged in a number of conversations over the last several years about eliminating neighbourhood crime, something that I know keeps many of us up at night. I've tried to collate my best tips and tricks and welcome your suggestions that I can add to the list. 

Reminder: During school hours if you ever see suspicious activity around a school, call 780-429-8000 and be connected to the EPSB Switchboard who can assist you. 

Edmonton’s Chief of Police often says “the social determinants of crime are the same as the social determinants of health”. We know that when we have more poverty, folks living rough, untreated mental health challenges, and substance abuse in our city, we are going to see more crime. We know we need to address the root causes of crime and focus more on prevention. While we work as a community to make these shifts, there are plenty of things we can do to keep ourselves and our families safe from worry and build better community safety. 

I want to share a few personal stories from my personal experience working with neighbours around the city. There are many quick steps we can take together to reduce neighbourhood crime.

Read on...

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New Anti-racism & Equity Policy for EPSB

A new draft policy (anti-racism and equity) passed the first reading on Tuesday, January 26th, 2020. Like with our landmark sexual orientation and gender identity work, these kinds of policies can not only positively impact our schools but can transform the future of our whole city. Please share your feedback with me at [email protected]

The new policy was informed by working with an advisory committee and a review of other public school and post-secondary anti-racism and equity policies. The Policy Review Committee will be embarking upon additional engagement with stakeholders to help inform final work on the policy prior to bringing it to the Board of Trustees for second, third, and final reading. In the Policy Review Committee’s work plan, the intended timeline to have this policy work completed is the 2020-2021 school year.

Draft Policy for feedback: https://www.epsb.ca/media/epsb/ourdistrict/boardoftrustees/boardmeetings/2020-21/january262021/02-BoardPolicyGGAB.BPMulticulturalEducation.pdf

Here are my remarks on the policy:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Aaa1wuEaiE


Rethinking the JUA: Opportunities for strong schools and strong communities

UPDATED JANUARY 26th, 2021: I made the following Notice of Motion at today's EPSB meeting (for debate at the February 9th, 2021 meeting):

As per section 13 and 14 of the joint use agreement with the City of Edmonton, EPSB trigger a renegotiation in order to clearly articulate apropriate uses of surplus school sites that help keep neighbourhood schools open and strengthen the educational outcomes of the Public, Catholic, and Francophone districts.

Further that the Board request the City refrain from any further sale of public land to private schools until the renegotiation is complete.

I’ve been reflecting on the last few months at city hall, and I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts related to the future of multi-institutional collaboration…

We just went through a $5 Billion school building boom, and that was just counting our schools.

In the good times, everyone wants their own building, and many have fallen hostage to a kind of “edifice complex”— Their own school, library, faith centre, seniors centre, corner store, community hall.

Now that the economic weather is getting colder, (provincial austerity, a slow pandemic recovery, a climate crisis and numerous economic hardships) how can we better collaborate on municipal land and infrastructure?

How do we continue to have "nice things" in Edmonton, who pays for them, who maintains them, and who gets to access them?

We could, as Don Iveson suggested at the Executive Committee on January 18th, look at public land through a shared vision of affordable housing, parks, green space, and public assets. How can we think about collaborative advocacy for amendments to provincial legislation that can enable better use of the tax dollar?

Two recent debates are raising the question of how different orders of government and organizations work together— or don’t.

I welcome your feedback and advice, so please help me think this through if you believe that I'm missing an opportunity. ([email protected])

Both of these conversations tie into our Joint Use Agreement, signed between all three school boards and city hall. (Read more)

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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:

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Celebrating English Language Learners through lessons on Winter

Last week at the Edmonton Public Board Meeting we heard a presentation from our administration, our schools, and our students about helping students who are English language learners (ELL) be successful in Edmonton Public Schools.

Edmonton Public Schools is committed to providing welcoming, safe, inclusive and responsive learning environments for all students. We have been welcoming newcomers to Canada into our classrooms for years.  Our current ELL population is supported through multi-disciplinary teams in Inclusive Learning and four reception centres, for family orientations, assessments, consultations, coaching and professional development for teachers and staff. Community partnerships play a valuable role in supporting newcomers in our schools.

The number of students identified and coded as ELL, as of September 30, 2015, is 22,437. This includes 166 early learners and 1,625 Kindergarten students. This is an increase from 12 613 identified students in 2010-11.

These numbers continue to grow. The classroom of today looks very different than it did twenty years ago. Our schools are incredibly diverse with many students coming from many different backgrounds around the world.

 

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Public Dollars Should Remain in Public Schools

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.
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51,540 Lessons on Child Poverty During a pandemic

By no fault of their own, 165,000 Alberta children, or 1-in-6, are in poverty.

That is 51,540 children in Edmonton. The number jumps to almost 1-in-2 children if living on a reserve.

The pandemic has not affected all of us equally. Some of us with privilege have transitioned relatively seamlessly. Others are losing businesses, livelihoods, their heath, and their lives. We cannot have a one-size-fits-all response from any order of government. Literacy or epidemiology, you cannot be truly well in a sick society. In the USA, prisons are forecast on grade 3 literacy levels. I really worry about the youngest and most vulnerable who are experiencing the negative compounding impacts and must be front and centre.

Thank you to the Edmonton Social Planning Council and Public Interest Alberta for the provocative presentation and report. 

Be sure to check out Public Interest Alberta's campaign, Even One Kid in Poverty is One Too Many

 

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