Concerns over UCP policy proposals were brought forward by Clearview trustees to MLA Rick Strankman during their Feb. 8 meeting. This was the Drumheller-Stettler MLA’s first chance to meet with five of the new trustees who were elected in October.
In particular, is a proposal to dissolve school boards across the province and to centralize education from Edmonton, in a similar manner to how Alberta Health Services is structured. When discussing the idea, Board Chair Ken Checkel said, “I know that there is a certain segment of the population that says that’s a great idea, and maybe there’s something to be said for it.”
“On the other hand, I think about how we do things in our division and I think of our technical support staff that is run out of head office. Four guys who make sure that everything is right with our technology in our schools. If we didn’t have those guys and just left it up to individual schools, well you can imagine what would happen. Some schools would have nothing.”
Another UCP proposal is to fund private and public education at the same levels of per-student funding. Currently, Catholic schools in Alberta receive the same amount of support, while private schools recieve 70% of the funding that public schools do from the province.
The Drumheller-Stettler representative assured the board that these policies have not yet been set, and will be decided by the membership that votes at the convention happening May 4th to the 6th in Red Deer.
Strankman went on to say that UCP Leader Jason Kenny told caucus he wants to see party policy developed at a local level, and directed the board to the contact information for the local UCP member tasked with policy development.
Vice-Chair Guy Neitz asked Rick Strankman to take their feedback to his caucus members stating, “The [Board] represent the regional interests of the needs of the parents and students here. Our regional needs are different here from other areas of the province.”
“When we hear these things like centralization, or that we need an A-H-S [style of] education system…Decisions made in Edmonton don’t reflect the needs of the parents here, the students here, or the unique circumstances that we deal with.”
Aside from the concerns over dissolving school boards and per-student funding, the board shared the importance of their annual grant funding. Funds from Alberta Education such as “Small School By Necessity” funding, have helped the board keep smaller schools in the division open over the last number of years.
After the meeting with the local MLA, the board passed a motion to set up a meeting with the Drumheller-Stettler constituency association to discuss their issues with the education proposals. Board chair Ken Checkel also stated he will contact the chair of the bordering Prairieland school division to discuss these issues.