Wednesday, Alberta teachers had their say on the future of provincial education and they let the candidates hoping to become the next UCP leader know how they felt.
The grilled leadership candidates on their plans for education.
The candidates had some hits and misses, and by the end, skeptical teachers said its actions that will rebuild trust that’s been lost between them and the United Conservatives.
That much was acknowledged by UCP leadership hopeful Todd Loewen, who said, “It sounds like maybe an understatement.
“The last time there was any real communication was February 2021,” he added, “and that’s too long.”
From the widely-reviled K to six curriculum rewrite to pension fund changes, the list of grievances is long.
“They’ve failed public education,” said Alberta Teachers Association president Jason Schilling. “They’ve failed students, they’ve failed teachers and they’ve failed the school communities.
“Teachers have not been consulted on curriculum. They’ve not been consulted on the pension deal that happened in 2019.”
Along with promises of improved consultation and respect, there was also an acknowledgement from various candidates that school boards need more stable funding models.
“Funding must be relative to population growth, inflation (and) guided by enrollment,” said Leela Aheer.
Brian Jean suggested “ideology” needed to be removed from the classroom, while also acknowledging problems with the new curriculum rollout.
“We can slow this down,” Jean said, “and in September we can have a better curriculum and we have to re-evaluate it at this time, but folks the ATA should not be the enemy of the Government of Alberta.”
By a show of hands, the crowd came mostly from school boards in traditionally conservative rural ridings, but nevertheless, at times hard feelings in the crowd rose to the surface.
Danielle Smith was heckled by the audience while attempting to criticize the province’s math curriculum.
“Respect is a two way street guys,” Smith said.
“That’s what we’ve been asking for,” said an audience member.
Smith and Jean are the front-runners in the race, with Travis Toews, who missed the event due to a scheduling conflict, also drawing significant support.
It’s difficult to say how badly any of the candidates need teacher support to win.
“So the Conservatives sit back and go, well, we really don’t need to worry about them (teachers),” said MRU political scientist Keith Brownsey.
“They (the teachers) may not like curriculum,” he added, “but this is what our (political) base wants.”
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