Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith and Airdrie-Chestermere MLA Rob Anderson presented the Wildrose Alliance Caucus’ policy on education, Sept. 9 at Ralph McCall School in Airdrie.
Smith said the policy aims to empower parents, teachers, schools and school boards by allowing funding to follow students, encouraging choice and competition and allowing more local decision making.
“Ensuring Alberta’s children have access to a world-class education is one of the most important roles the provincial government can play in building our province. Consolidating service delivery under one big bureaucratic umbrella is asking for waste and inefficiency,” she said.
“The key to improving our education systems is finding ways to get the resources on the front lines, where they can be allocated by parents, teachers, schools and school boards.”
The announcement was made outside of Ralph McCall School to highlight the consequences of political interference in choosing sites for new schools.
Ralph McCall School is currently at 98.3 per cent capacity, one of the seven Rocky View schools at more than 95 per cent capacity.
“They took communities like Airdrie, Chestermere and Beaumont for granted, instead placing schools in ridings they thought were politically vulnerable to the opposition parities of the day,” said Anderson.
“Now kids in these communities are paying the price. Thirty schools were announced before the last election and Airdrie, the fastest growing community in Alberta, didn’t get one. We have to take the political decision-making out of the formula. We want to let the schools boards make decisions on where schools are needed.”
Smith said playing politics with children’s future is simply unacceptable.
“Albertans want more say in their children’s learning, not more decisions made by politicians and bureaucrats,” she said. “They want schools that are needed, not in response to the internal power-brokering of provincial politicians.”
Smith said the most important step is to have educational funding follow the student. Both operational and maintenances funding should flow directly to the school that parents choose for their kids.
Rocky View Schools board trustee Sylvia Eggerer said although she commends Wildrose for trying to help a system that is struggling, the party’s ideas are very idealistic.
“I think their intentions are noble but misguided. I’m just not sure how they would get some of these things to work,” she said.
“The funding following the students will take a lot of children out of their community and public schools have more responsibilities than to educate children. We need to develop good citizens and give them a sense of community, caring for your neighbours. I worry some of that can get lost in the rhetoric.”
The Wildrose education policy would introduce a funding formula that sends funds for new schools directly to the local level. Eggerer is also concerned about the proposed funding model for public and private schools.
“If you give a significant portion of the funding to the private, it is not going to work because they don’t have the students with the heavy needs that the public schools deal with,” she said.
The caucus policy also highlights the need to allow the brightest students and those struggling with certain areas more freedom to work at their own pace.
“We need to do more to ensure our children are able to learn at their own pace and in their own way, rather than taking the traditional one-size fits all approach,” said Smith.
“As most teachers and parents know, the traditional classroom model of a teacher lecturing a group of students based strictly on their age is outdated. This teaching style often sees gifted students held back, while students who fail to grasp key concepts are moved on to higher grades and more complicated subject matter regardless of whether they are ready.”
The policy proposes pilot projects where open-enrolment and tuition-free public, Catholic, charter and other alternative schools could opt into a competency-based learning and assessment education model.
Eggerer said although this is a good idea in theory, it would be difficult to implement.
“In our schools we have children that are severely disabled,” she said. “We are teaching these children life skills: how to eat and go to the bathroom by themselves. I firmly believe everyone is good at something, if you are very rigid and only promote them when they have achieved something, you set them up for psychological and emotional problems.”
The full policy and video are available at www.wildrosealliancecaucus.ca