Media releases | January 10, 2012

EDMONTON—“Alberta Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk’s new ten-point plan for education is more than a disappointment,” said Public Interest Alberta’s Board Chair Larry Booi. “It’s actually a step sideways, rather than forward, at a time when we really need clear actions on education in this province,” said Booi. “The ten areas mentioned are in some cases important, but there are no effective actions suggested. The proposal is not an action plan, but a ‘study guide’, and appears to be merely one more ministerial photo opportunity.”“For example, we certainly need action to support more early learning opportunities for young children, but the Minister instead proposes yet another consultation, with a delay in any real action until 2013/14,” said Booi. “This issue has been studied enough, and Alberta is falling further behind – what we need is action to support families in a variety ways so that all of our children come to school in Grade 1 ready to learn.”Booi also panned the proposal for further study in the area of Provincial Achievement Testing: “The Conservative-dominated Legislature even passed a motion calling on the government to get rid of the Grade Three tests, but instead the Minister has called for more consultation and study – once again, we end up treading water rather than taking action on a key issue in education.”The proposal for a “stronger voice for parents” appears to be yet another exercise in public relations rather than a way to improve learning. “Parents are vital partners in the education of children, and their voices need to be heard in systematic and effective ways. School Councils have helped a great deal in that regard, but it’s very hard to see how having 1700 or more school councils connecting more directly with the Minister will have any educational rather than political payoff,” said Booi.PIA Executive Director Bill Moore-Kilgannon said that most of the other elements in the ten-point proposal, such as “reducing the administrative burden for charter schools” and forcing school boards to change aspects of their financial statements, were simply not priority concerns in our K-12 education system.He also questioned the proposal related to “wrap around services” at the school level: “The general idea of providing health and social support services for children at the school level is definitely the way to go. The problem is that the Minister’s proposal doesn’t really do much to advance that good idea.”Moore-Kilgannon said that the Education Minister has wasted an opportunity to make a difference in education: “We’ve had two years of extremely extensive and effective consultation under previous Minister Dave Hancock, which PIA fully supported. We were disappointed when Minister Lukaszuk chose to launch yet another consultation in the fall after becoming minister, and now his ten-point plan essentially calls for more of the same. There are crucial areas in education that need action, and in the near future PIA will be releasing a detailed proposal for action in five areas that we feel will make the biggest difference for the education of Alberta’s children. We hope the Education Minister will re-think his plans in light of these proposals, which we intend to highlight in the coming provincial election.”-30-Media Contact: Bill Moore-Kilgannon (780) 993-3736