Posted on Mar 30, 2020
OFFICIAL OPPOSITION JOINS PARENTS, STAFF TO CALL FOR UCP TO REVERSE HEARTLESS EDUCATION CUTS
EDMONTON - Parents, educational staff and the NDP Official Opposition are calling on Premier Jason Kenney to immediately reverse a $128-million cut to Alberta’s schools. The cuts will force more than 20,000 layoffs and remove critical support to students at a time when they need them the most.
“This Government has made a terrible, cruel decision and it has been met with desperate cries from parents, students and the staff themselves,” said NDP Education Critic Sarah Hoffman. “The Premier has said he would spare no expense when it came to supporting Albertans through these difficult times, but what he’s done will make life a lot harder for thousands upon thousands of kids and will put thousands more people out of work.”
“It’s time for the Premier to admit he was wrong and restore this critical funding.”
The Government announced the cut over the weekend with no notice or consultation. The announcement came from the Minister of Education via news release followed by a single post-thread on Twitter. Minister LaGrange did not make herself available to answer questions or explain why she was reversing her commitment to maintain the education budget during the pandemic.
Internal communication to school boards called for the termination of all educational assistant positions, limiting the use of substitute teachers and other position cuts.
Educational staff speaking to the Official Opposition over the weekend were caught completely off-guard and all suggested their jobs had become more critical and time-consuming since schools provincewide were shut down two weeks ago to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Lee-Ann Kalen, an Educational Assistant in St. Albert disagrees with the UCP government’s accusation that EAs aren’t working during school closures. She said “along with the stress of setting up virtual classrooms and dealing with students and parents who are understandably stressed out by the COVID situation, Educational Assistants now worry about how our students will be able to cope without us. On May 1st, COVID or not, there will still be special needs kids, but they are being thrown overboard by the Kenney government.”
Jessica Kewley has four kids with special needs and all had access to educational assistants. Minister LaGrange’s earlier commitment to maintain these supports meant she was expecting her kids to continue receiving aid from educational assistants as she and her family adjust to the new on-line learning environment.
“Hearing that my kids won’t have the support of their Educational Assistant was devastating,” Kewley said. “My kids, like so many others, need their EAs so that they can keep up with their studies. I expected this government to look out for our most vulnerable but what they’ve done is basically thrown them under the bus.”
Nancy King is a parent living in Fort McMurray. Her daughter is set to graduate this year and credits that achievement to the “strong support network at school, her teachers and her Educational Assistants” who helped her transition to an at-home learning environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are a family who knows how to be resilient,” King said. “We lost our house in the Fort McMurray wildfire and rebuilt. That entire process was a cakewalk compared to the situation that we are now going to face without the support our daughter deserves from her educational assistant.”