ATA responds to all party education platforms

By Charles Lefebvre
April 4, 2019 - 12:00pm

MEDICINE HAT, AB — The Alberta Teachers Association has reviewed the education platforms of the NDP, the Alberta Party and the Alberta Liberals.

The association, which represents teachers throughout the province, says they have reviewed the platforms of other parties, one week after they responded to the United Conservative Party’s platform.

ATA president Greg Jeffery says the NDP platform addressed one of the main concerns their organization has, which is class sizes.

“The announcement from the Alberta New Democrats, talking about fully funding enrolment growth, that’s important for us,” he said. “Also the increase to the Classroom Improvement Fund, an addition of $23 million, which could-and I stress could- add up to 400 new teachers, depending on how they break those funds down, because the platform says up to 400 new teachers and support staff.”

Jeffery adds he is pleased to see the safe and supportive spaces for LGBTQ+ students remain in the NDP’s platform.

“Teachers liked Bill 24 because it provided clarity for teachers, and in certain cases, protections for teachers, in not disclosing if a student was a member of a gay-straight alliance,” he said.

Last week, after the United Conservative Party released its platform, Jeffery released a statement, saying the party’s priorities were “misplaced and misguided.”

“Class size is the unsolved crisis of the past 14 years and unless something is done right away, the continuing failure to support inclusion will be the crisis of the next four years,” said Jeffery. “Unfortunately, the UCP plan fails to make a firm commitment to fund continuing enrolment growth and is absolutely silent on the issues of inclusion and classroom complexity.”

Jeffery says the organization has also reviewed the Alberta Party’s education platform.

“There’s a nice opening statement ending mandatory school fees, but that can be problematic,” he said, using field trips as an example. “Students cannot be denied field trips, so if fees can;t be charged, and there’s no money in the school budget, that’s going to possibly reduce field trips.

“We do like the statement about annual increases that are proportionate to population growth, that’s the finding for growth, also including inflation in their statement.”

Jeffery adds the association also liked the pledge to hire additional education assistants, adding inclusion is the second biggest priority for the ATA.

Jeffery also praised parts of the Alberta Liberals platform, including the flexible classroom size caps, and hiring more teachers.

Jeffery says he was disappointed that mental health wasn’t as much of a focus in any party’s platform.

“We would like to see support for that with certificated councillors available in every school to help students with mental health issues,” he said, noting it will an issue the association will be advocating for with the next provincial government.

He adds the association is also pleased all parties, with the exception of the Freedom Conservative Party, are not planning to stop the ongoing curriculum rewrite.

“Certain parties would take a look at things, and maybe rework it, but so much time and effort and money have gone into this endeavour so far, it would be a shame to lose it,” he said. “More than 300 Alberta teachers have been actively involved in this curriculum rewrite, and we know there are teachers around the province

Jeffery says the ATA doesn’t endorse parties during elections, noting it’s a non-partisan organization.

“We’re non-partisan, but we are political,” he said. “We’re going to be talking about issues throughout the remainder of the election period, because our issues are important for public education.”

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