Teachers and supporters from all over the province gathered in Edmonton on Saturday to protest the Alberta government’s cuts to distance-education programs.
More than 200 people assembled in front of the provincial legislature as part of the “Get on the Bus” rally, and speakers talked about the importance of distance education within Alberta.
“I think for the people there, the rally was successful because the message was sent of how important the ADLC (Alberta Distance Learning Centre) is,” said Corey Van Zandbergen, local president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association Local for the Clearview School Division.
“I think the rally went well. The speakers were very informative and it served to raise the visibility of the issue in the public eye.”
Another local representative was equally optimistic about the impact of the rally.
“We have received tremendous outpouring of support from parents, students, and educators across the province,” said Dustin Blumhagen, a distance education teacher who grew up in Galahad and lived in Stettler until this summer.
Blumhagen, who now works in Calgary, added that organizers are encouraging supporters to write to their MLAs.
Rally organizers are discussing the next step.
“I believe that we have already had an impact and that we will continue to make our voice heard as we move forward,” Blumhagen said.
The Alberta government cut 56 per cent of the distance-education program’s funding in the spring, which took effect in September of this year.
According to Van Zandbergen, about 10 per cent of Alberta’s students take at least one distance-education course for various reasons — whether it be wanting to take more classes, physical isolation, or just not wanting to attend class in a classroom.
But the cuts affect how well the ADLC can serve students, and the effect is felt most in rural schools, its proponents say.
“When it comes to the people at the rally, the atmosphere was one of determined disappointment — disappointed that we are having to discuss cutbacks to a successful, cost-effective program, but determined that this fight will not be given up on easily,” said Van Zandbergen.
“We will continue to work hard to make the facts available to the public, while supporting other groups who are facing similar challenges …,” Blumhagen said. “The rally was just the beginning.”