Posted on Apr 14, 2020
REHIRE SCHOOL STAFF AND GIVE PARENTS FUNDING TO SUPPORT LEARNING AT HOME
Alberta’s NDP Official Opposition is calling on the UCP government to rehire more than 20,000 educational staff laid off without warning and to provide financial support to parents to purchase supplies that support at-home learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We should have never cut the budget for education in this very difficult time — in fact, we need to invest more to ensure our students can still learn at home,” said Sarah Hoffman, NDP Education Critic. “Parents are finding the shift to at-home learning very challenging, and many don’t have the extra cash to buy the things they need to help their kids succeed.”
The NDP called for a new grant program to be established during the pandemic that would provide a one-time payment of $250 for each child enrolled in preschool and K-12 education and $300 for each child with special needs. The funds would be directed to families to help them buy equipment, supplies, and other resources to help students learn at home. This could include technology like tablets, laptops, web-cameras, and things like books, art supplies, science materials, and sporting equipment. Parents surveyed by the NDP before introducing the program proposal reported finding a suitable laptop for their students for roughly $250.
The program proposal follows a similar move in Ontario where the Doug Ford government recently launched a similar program.
Lisa Fleury has twin sons in their final year of high school. Both have autism and are now grappling with completing their K-12 education at home.
“The unexpected closing of our schools due to COVID-19 has added financial pressure to our family,” Fleury said. Trying to keep some consistency and routine in their lives, I've purchased a Chromebook for academics because that is what was used at school. If I had more funds available, I'd get more resources too.”
Michelle Cardinal-Janisch has kids in grades six and eight. One of her kids has a learning disability and has been impacted greatly by the UCP decision to cut the education budget by $128 million and fire all of the province’s educational assistants.
Cardinal-Janisch has also been temporarily laid off from her job as the business she works at has been classified as non-essential.
“It was very stressful trying to figure out what resources we need and how to manage them alongside the loss of income,” Cardinal-Janisch said. “Computers and learning tools were definitely not in our budget and absolutely essential. Having monetary support from the government would not only help out financially but would also provide a huge emotional and mental support, allowing us to purchase little things that would help the kids feel like school at home was a good experience. They have lost so much. Their school, after school activities — it would be nice to have some money to buy supplies to make the experience a bit more bearable.”
Government of Alberta data suggests the parents of about 750,000 K-12 students would be available for the financial support program and it’s estimated the total program would cost about $190 million.
Erin Schaefer has two children who are coded as having very different special needs, one child requires speech therapy and physiotherapy, the other needs to be taught above standard grade level.
“I would like this government to acknowledge that the issues facing families during the pandemic are as unique as the individuals in the families, we are all doing our best to support our children, and that now comes with an additional cost,” Schaefer said. “Receiving a grant of $250 would allow us to support our children not only where they are, but where they have the ability to go.”