Blog | May 01, 2012

By Andrea Sands, Edmonton JournalEDMONTON - Education advocates say they are eager for details about how Alberta Premier Alison Redford will fulfil campaign promises to build and renovate dozens of schools and boost children’s health and education across the province.The Tory platform promises 50 new schools and renovations to 70 more over the next four years in growing communities such as Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Leduc, Beaumont and Edmonton. The work is overdue but the numbers might not be enough, said Alberta Teachers’ Association president Carol Henderson.“They have promised new schools and they absolutely need to do that because we’re expecting to have our student population grow by 100,000 students over the next 10 years and we do not, at this point, have the capacity for those students, nor do we have the teaching force,” Henderson said.“They not only have to build schools but they have to hire teachers. The election promise was to build schools, but schools don’t teach children how to read, teachers do.”Education played a central role in the Progressive Conservatives’ election campaign and has been a key focus for Redford since she became premier in the fall. When Redford first took office, she followed through on a promise to immediately return $107 million to school boards to help them rehire teachers and other staff and pay for programs and materials.During the election, Redford repeatedly called on Albertans to support her party’s pledge to spend $2.4 billion from projected surpluses on new and renovated schools, rather than Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith’s promise to distribute 20 per cent of future surpluses to Albertans as “energy dividends,” dubbed “Danielle dollars.”The Conservatives’ campaign platform included promises to update Alberta’s curriculum, introduce a provincewide after-school recreation strategy for approximately $4 million per year, double amateur sports funding to $20 million a year and promote kids’ learning about healthy eating and living.The platform also promised a refundable tax credit of up to $500 per child for kids registered in physical-activity programs as well as a $500 tax credit for teachers who spend their own money on extras for their students.The focus on kids’ health, including the refundable tax credit for sports programs, should be welcome news for parents, said the president of the Alberta School Councils Association.“I would think most parents would appreciate the tax credit, especially enrolling into some of the sports programs that can certainly chew up some of the resources within a family,” said Brad Vonkeman.Many of Redford’s campaign promises mirror concerns the Edmonton public school board has expressed over the past year, said board chairman Dave Colburn.“I look forward to the specifics being rolled out,” Colburn said. “It’s the first time in my eight years being a trustee that I’ve seen the government put a clear commitment of dollars prioritizing both infrastructure areas — modernization and upgrading and new-school construction.”Edmonton Catholic school board chairwoman Debbie Engel said she is confident Redford will follow through on the promises.“She promised to reinstate $107 million and she did…Bang, there it was, and I think that’s part of the reason Albertans put their faith her,” Engel said. “I have a lot of faith that this is going to happen.”By Andrea Sands, Edmonton [email protected]

This article was published in the Edmonton Journal on April 30, 2012. Read the full article on the Edmonton Journal website.