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Monday, February 21, 2011

Some Context on Public Education in Anticipation of the Alberta Budget

The Alberta government called off the tripartite talks with Alberta's teachers and school trustees out of the blue.  Very strange since it was such a good initiative.  The idea of extending "labour peace" with teachers and trustees beyond the August 2012 date of the current agreement would enable a continuing focus on improving and transforming what is already an excellent public education system. One wonders if all the good work of public dialogue behind Inspiring Education will not be lost.

So now we apparently have a deficit budget provincially.  That budget, like all budgets, is a political projection based on assumptions and political purposes that we will see more clearly on budget day February 24th.   All indications are that we can expect the fiscal hawks and privateers to jump at this opportunity be pushing for more private sector competition for teachers and school boards as the solution to public education..  This is the same tactics they use in health care and social services, only more subtly with language designed to obscure their real intent.

In anticipation of the propaganda and rhetoric about our financial crisis I think some honest and accountable conversations have to take place.   Here is a link to one of those "movies" from an American source but the principles about public education work in our Alberta.  It is about 6.5 minutes long and worth a watch.  (Hat Tip to School Trustee Esme Comfort for the link)  It is an interesting "debate" between an anti-unionist and a teacher that has resonance in Alberta.

I like the way it puts perspective on the roles and relationship of the government to teachers.  I like the explanation of where public education fits in our social contract with the responsibilities we have for current and future generations.  Those are the same questions we face for the future of Alberta as we Learn Our Way to the Next Alberta.  The facts used by the privateers in their arguments to say government is the problem and the competitive marketplace is the solution are selective, simplistic and shallow.

This clip shows the inability or refusal of the libertarian mindset to see the interplay of various aspects that influence public policy issues like health, education, environment and other necessary public services.  Sound bite politics are not consistent with good governance. We really need to focus on good governance and not so much on power-play politics if we are going to realize our potential as a province.

We all have a stake in ensuring our public education system in Alberta is able to meet the needs of kids today and for the future they will face.  That is core to the Alberta Aspiration of thinking beyond being the best in the world but being the best for the world.  Learn more about these thoughts and ideas at the evening public lecture on March 17 with Pollster/Author Michael Adams and Professor/Author Jean Twenge at the Sutton Place Hotel in Edmonton.  Click here to get tickets online.