Government makes the right call in building 19 new schools without for-profit partners
Edmonton — Nineteen new schools in Alberta will be built through traditional financing models.
Although the schools had been previously been announced last year as Private-Public-Partnership (P3) ventures, the government did not receive any competitive bids.
"Rather than funneling taxpayer money into corporate pockets, the Hancock Government had the courage to abandon the P3 model," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "This is encouraging. It's a good decision for Albertans, and I hope they continue to move away from the P3 model."
Alberta Infrastructure Minister Wayne Drysdale left the door open for the use of the P3 scheme in the future, suggesting that while it hadn't made sense in this instance, they would return to it. The Alberta Federation of Labour encourages the government to abandon the P3 model permanently.
"Schools need to be built in the way that is best for students," McGowan said. "When a private corporation is involved, their motivation is to make profit, and decisions about how the school is built will reflect that. P3s are not just more expensive, they're worse for Alberta's kids."
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour, 780.218.4351 (cell)
or via email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Scathing internal report shows government scrambling to find way to build schools
Edmonton – “The Redford Government’s P3 schools experiment has been all but abandoned by the construction industry,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “The Redford government needs to be honest with Albertans about how and when new schools will be built. Families in new neighborhoods can’t send their children to a school made of government press releases held up by hot air.”An internal government report shows the government public-private partnership (P3) method for building schools “has been halted” and the government is considering other options.
The document, obtained by the Alberta Federation of Labour through Alberta’s Freedom of Information system, summarizes a debrief session of companies in the business of designing, building, financing and managing P3 facilities, including schools. The government commissioned Deloitte to get feedback from these companies after only one bidder stepped forward for the last round of P3 schools.
According to the document, dated October 21, 2013, the P3 process for new schools has been halted. It continues by saying the government is “now considering a range of different procurement options” for these and other schools.
“Now we know why government announcements heralding new schools have been noticeably absent on the costs, expected completion dates, and method of procurement,” McGowan said. “Redford’s new-schools announcements are a figment of a spin doctor’s imagination. They aren’t a real commitment to building the province.”
“P3s are high-flying ideological experiments, and this document proves they haven’t worked for Albertans. It’s time for Premier Redford to get her feet on the ground and put forward a conventional plan to build new schools,” McGowan said. “I’m calling on the province to publicly do as industry has already done – abandon this failed P3 experiment and get busy with a real plan to build Alberta schools.”
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell)
or via e-mail email@example.com
Part of AFL News Release Thursday, February 20, 2014 titled "Documents show school promises may never be fulfilled"
More students, less money is a recipe for trouble
Edmonton –A coalition of school employees is warning Albertans that the quality of our public education system is at risk. Frontline education workers opened the first day of the new legislative session by speaking out on their concerns. Support staff from a number of school board regions including Edmonton Public, Edmonton Catholic and Calgary Public gathered in the legislature to highlight the need for increased funding.
On behalf of their students, a province-wide coalition of staff working in primary education is calling on government to restore 14.5 million that was cut from Alberta’s school budgets. Kids Not Cuts Alberta says ongoing education cuts are undermining the ability of schools to provide safe, productive learning environments for Alberta’s K-12 Students.
“Premier Redford should be paying close attention to what this coalition is saying. These are facility operators, special needs teaching assistants, library technicians, and custodial staff that are at the front lines of making sure our K-12 schools work. They have an insider perspective on what needless cuts to school board budgets do to a student’s ability to learn and excel,” Co-Chair of the 10,000-member coalition Don Boucher said.
The coalition notes that according to the Government’s own calculations student populations are projected to increase in the coming years, but budget cuts mean that schools are getting cleaned less often, that students with special needs are getting less attention, libraries have fewer staff to keep them running, and the lack of support staff means teachers can’t focus on delivering the curriculum.
“Many of us are simply fed up with what we see happening in our schools,” CUPE 30 President Mike Scott said. “It’s a shame that in one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in North America, we can’t seem to make funding our children’s schools a priority. We have 11,000 more students in our system this year alone. The government’s 14.5 million in cuts don’t make sense. We must restore these shameful cuts and ensure adequate funding for next year.”
“The legislature is back in session and planning for Budget 2014 is underway,” Boucher said. “Alberta’s students and parents cannot afford to have a repeat of last year’s budget catastrophe. Parents deserve to know their kids are in a safe, clean environment. Students deserve to have the resources they need to learn.”
Kids Not Cuts Alberta is a group of employees who have taken a stand for Alberta's kids through participation in their unions – the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Unifor. Students, parent groups, our amazing teacher colleagues, as well as everyday Albertans are allies in our coalition.
The Coalition was joined by New Democrat Education critic Deron Bilous. “This PC government can’t be trusted to stand up for kids or our public schools,” said Bilous. “They promised long-term, stable and predictable funding and then broke their promise, instead delivering cutbacks that mean that too many kids are in overcrowded classrooms without the staff supports they need.”
Kids Not Cuts Fact Sheet: Facts on Growing Schools and Decreasing Funding-30-
Olav Rokne, Communications Director, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780.289.6528 (cell) or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Coalition stands up for the educational needs of our children
On Monday, October 28 the Kids Not Cuts Alberta coalition will hold a press conference in Edmonton. Monday marks the opening of the Alberta Legislature and Kids Not Cuts Alberta will use the occasion to highlight the negative impacts of cuts and to urge provincial politicians of all parties to make improved education funding an immediate priority.
When: Monday, October 28, 11:00 a.m.
Where: Alberta Legislature Press Room
Who: Don Boucher, Kids Not Cuts Alberta Co-Chair
Mike Scott, president CUPE Local 30
Members from the Kids Not Cuts Coalition-30-
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via e-mail email@example.com.
EDMONTON - Health care and education are among Albertans' top concerns heading into the provincial election, while government trust and accountability is another hot topic, particularly for Wildrose party supporters, a new poll indicates.
However, pollster Ian Large of Leger Marketing noted there seems to be no single dominant issue that is commanding voters' attention so far in the race, meaning political parties must score points with multi-pronged platforms.
"Things are looking up, the economy is doing well, people are working, people are satisfied with their personal life, and so the concerns they have are much more general than they would be if say, unemployment was the issue," he said. "It indicates that any party trying to run on a single issue, that's not going to speak to most Albertans. There are a bunch of different things at play here."
The poll, conducted by Leger for the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald, asked respondents to name the most important issue facing the province from a list of 12 subjects.
Not surprisingly, health care was the most popular answer, chosen by more than one-quarter of the survey's participants.
However, trust and accountability came in second with 15 per cent, well ahead of taxes, deficit spending, crime, the environment, electricity rates, and other issues that are a central part of some parties' campaign platforms.
The third most popular issue was education at 10 per cent, followed by the economy (nine), cost of living (seven), and energy development (seven). Everything else was five per cent or less.
University of Lethbridge political scientist Peter McCormick said the focus on accountability was likely driven by a number of recent controversies that have dogged Alison Redford's PC government, including an ethics investigation into a fundraiser held by Asia envoy Gary Mar, a "bullying" letter sent by a Tory MLA to a school board and revelations about a committee that continued to be paid even though it hadn't met for 40 months.
He noted that when survey respondents were asked a slightly different question — what issues would most affect their own vote — trust and accountability slipped to third and education moved up to second.
That's because while health and education play big for voters across the political spectrum, trust and accountability seem to be vital only toWildrose supporters. According to the poll data, 32 per cent of decided Wildrose voters felt it was an issue that affects their choice, compared with much lower concern among those backing the PCs (13), Liberals (16), NDP (21), and undecided voters (13).
"And it's mostly because you are Wildrose that you are concerned about this, rather than because you are concerned about this you are drawn to Wildrose," McCormick said.
"It's on the agenda because the Wildrose has put it on the agenda," said Large. "It's not surprising voters are aware of it, but whether it's important to them remains to be seen."
As for other issues, the environment ranked as the third most important subject for Liberal voters and fourth most important for NDP backers, but was near the bottom for Wildrose voters.
Deficit budgeting was also a concern for the Wildrose, Liberals felt more strongly about the cost of living and PC voters showed high interest in energy development.
Taxes and electricity rates were not vital factors for anyone, even though opposition parties have made those issues key planks in their platforms.
"There's not a bubbling revolution waiting to happen on those things," McCormick said. "Health care, education, and government trust and accountability — that's the closest you can get to finding a combination of issues that will get people going."
The March 22-25 telephone survey of 1,215 Albertans has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin increases when results are broken down by region or demographic.
Edmonton Journal, Thurs Mar 29 2012
Byline: Keith Gerein
The province will be making announcements about new school projects in the next few days, Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk told Alberta teachers at a pre-election forum Saturday.
He added a new method of paying for the approximately 400 new schools needed to house the province's exploding student population over the next decade is also in the works.
"Under the current financial model of paying cash, we only get to build a fraction of the schools that we need to build," Lukaszuk said during an all-party event sponsored by the Alberta Teachers' Association at Barnett House, the ATA's headquarters.
Lukaszuk said only five to seven new schools can be built annually under the current education budget, which itself is increasing by about 3.5 per cent every year. The Treasury Board and Alberta Education are considering various ways to raise money.
But talk of borrowing money to build schools didn't go down well with Vitor Marciano, a Senate candidate representing the Wildrose party at the forum.
"The fact we should go back into debt to build schools belies the fact that in many ways we are the richest jurisdiction in the world, and if we were able to properly manage our affairs there should be enough money to build an appropriate number of schools."
Marciano said the Tories hold out "the promise of a school" to garner support with voters, and he said a Wildrose government would establish a formula for school approvals.
"Building decisions are hideously politicized in this province. No cabinet or political party should decide whether your kids need a school," Marciano said.
But Lukaszuk said later, "The largest number of schools now being built are in Airdrie, which is a Wildrose constituency. There are only three criteria that we go on, enrolment, capacity of the area, structural soundness of the existing schools, and health and safety."
And he slammed the Wildrose party's aversion to borrowing.
"If you are going to build that many new schools with the current budget (without additional funding), that means some other programs are going to go away," he said.
"I don't believe in this false type of mathematics, I believe in being open. We will be looking at a variety of vehicles, either external or internal, to make sure kids today get the schools they need."
Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MLA Rachel Notley said decisions about where to build new schools must be "entirely transparent," and recent stories about possible political interference in the process "makes Albertans lack trust in the process."
Earlier this month, northern Alberta Progressive Conservative MLA Hector Goudreau had to resign as chairman of a government committee after a letter he wrote to the Holy Family Catholic School District indicating criticism of the government could cost the board a new school was made public.
Notley also said using the public private partnership (P3) model for building new schools "is a failed model that can't accommodate a changing community."
A spring election is expected to be called as early as next week, sending voters to the polls in late April. Saturday's all-party forum highlighted a potential lightning rod for teachers and three of the official opposition party representatives: Private schools funded by the province.
Alberta gives 70 per cent of the base student funding to such schools compared with 100 per cent for public schools.
"Public tax dollars must be for public education," said Alberta Liberal Leader Raj Sherman to applause, who added the province gives those schools $192 million a year.
" 'Choice' is code for privatization, the same as in health care," he said.
Lukaszuk insisted that public schools are superior to private schools, which is why 95 per cent of parents send their kids to public schools.
"Our public education system is superior to any private education offered anywhere in the world, and parents know that," he said.
"Private schools make public education look good."
The comments appalled the Alberta Party's Sue Huff, who wondered why the province was funding private schools if they were inferior.
"I am stunned a minister of education would say it is OK for some parents to choose crappy education for their children."
Lukaszuk insisted the parents who send their kids to private schools also pay property taxes so deserve some education support.
Marciano agreed with Lukaszuk: "We think this is an issue of choice. Private and public are different, I am not going to say one is superior than the other, and for the small number of parents who send their kids to the private system, that keeps pressure on the public system to keep it excellent."
Edmonton Journal, Sun Mar 18 2012
Byline: Dave Cooper
Expect cutbacks to the education system to be front-and-centre when a group calling for more money for education, health care, and other government services holds a public meeting in Edmonton Thursday night.
The 7pm meeting at Santa Maria Community Centre, at 11050 90th Street, marks the last one on a seven-city tour by Join Together Alberta. Public Interest Alberta, Alberta Federation of Labour, Friends of Medicare, and the Alberta Teachers' Association are among those taking part.
Both, Edmonton Public and Catholic School Boards are preparing to move forward with fewer teachers and other staff this fall, in an effort to balance their books. The public school board has already passed its budget, with cuts to 229 teaching positions. The Catholic board is forecasting 97 lost teaching positions, as it prepares to pass its budget next week.
iNews880am, Thurs Jun 23 2011
Fluctuating revenues lead to cuts when oil prices decline
In industries such as oil and gas, revenues can fluctuate, sometimes wildly, with the ebbs and flows of the market.
For a province such as Alberta, whose revenue is heavily based on the oil and gas industry, such fluctuations are a major problem because the need for that money doesn't fluctuate. The need to fund areas such as health care and education is constant.
It's for that reason that Public Interest Alberta is campaigning to push the province to fix a revenue system it says is broken.
The organization is touring the province, holding town hall meetings - including one in Lethbridge tonight at 7 p.m. at Southminster United Church - to let Albertans know the province does have options for generating revenue that could eliminate the need for cuts.
Public Interest Alberta points out the province still has about $10 billion in rainy-day savings in the Heritage Trust Fund. The organization also says Alberta - the only province still using a flat tax - would be better served by switching to a progressive tax system which could generate up to extra $2 billion in revenue.
Alberta also overspent by $900 million on its energy stimulus drilling program which provides subsidies for the oil and gas industry.
The extra money in government coffers would come in handy now with school districts facing the prospect of budget shortfalls for next term.
"It's obviously well know that there's $100 million that's been cut out of the education budget even though they're looking at an additional 6,000 children from K to 12 going into our system next year," says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, which is helping to spearhead the "Join Together Alberta" campaign which demands Alberta change to a more consistent revenue model.
Moore-Kilgannon notes post-secondary institutions are also facing tough times because the zero per cent increase in their operating budgets the past two years effectively amounts to a cut because operating costs have risen.
He's right when he says the need for health care, education and care for seniors doesn't rise and fall with the price of oil, and that cuts made today ultimately wind up producing greater costs down the road. That doesn't include the social costs in terms of hardship for Albertans who rely on these services.
There's no need for Albertans to have to endure such hardship. We are fortunate to live in one of the "have" provinces; maintaining services essential to Albertans shouldn't be as difficult as it has become.
"Alberta is one of the wealthiest places in the world, blessed with an abundance of extremely valuable natural resources - and yet our government has manufactured a financial crisis that is likely to see 1,200 teachers laid off in the next few months and a still to be determined number of vital educational support staff," Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour and co-chair of the JTA campaign, said in a news release at the campaign's launch. "Our education system is experiencing the same kind of chaos that has been inflicted on our health-care system, and that pain is also being felt in post-secondary education and in social services struggling to help vulnerable Albertans."
A more sustainable revenue system could ease that pain.
Lethbridge Herald, Thurs Jun 16 2011