Chairs and desks in chairs in a physics school classroom.
Alberta schools shouldn’t expect more cash under a United Conservative Party government until the economy turns around, UCP education critic Mark Smith said.The MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon was one of five men on a Saturday morning political panel hosted by the Alberta Teachers’ Association.“If we can grow the economy at three per cent and start to balance the budget, then we can start to have a conversation about how to move forward in education,” Smith told Postmedia after the panel.“It’s not that we have a philosophical problem with funding inclusion. But at the end of the day, there is a fiscal responsibility we have to the people of the province.”When asked by Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel exactly how the UCP plans to grow the economy, Smith deferred to his party’s yet-to-be-released platform.But, Smith said, there are opportunities for “efficiencies” in education, like co-operation between boards and dialing back on some of the reports required by Alberta Education.In a sometimes testy exchange, Smith and Mandel faced off against the NDP Education Minister David Eggen, Liberal Party Leader David Khan and Freedom Conservative candidate for Leduc-Beaumont, Jeff Rout.In his opening remarks, Smith took the NDP government to task for what he branded economic failure, and the tough position Alberta is now in. Eggen fired back that a budget freeze is the same as a cut, because it doesn’t fund more teachers or supports to deal with enrolment growth. Shredder takes a back seatIf ATA members were hoping to get a feel of where political parties stand going into the election, they may have left disappointed.The morning contained little in the way of hard and fast policy, though it did feature sniping about climate change and the government’s curriculum rewrite.On that last topic, Smith’s comments were notably dialed back from the messaging UCP Leader Jason Kenney has repeatedly relayed to his base.Kenney has vowed to put the curriculum rewrite “through the shredder” if it’s ideological, but Smith was more subdued.“Should we have the chance to govern and work with the ATA and others in education, we’re just going to pull back, have a time of reflection and, once we’ve assessed where we’re at and what’s missing and what isn’t missing, then we’ll move forward,” Smith told Postmedia.Asked for an example of NDP ideology in proposed revisions to the K-4 curriculum, Smith pointed to math reforms and what he sees as a lack of geography and Canadian history. He also took issue with “vague language” in the draft document.When asked to elaborate on how math can be ideological, he said it’s more about the way the subject is taught.Specifically, he doesn’t believe inquiry-based learning should be mandated but he does support standardized testing.Eggen dismissed the notion of a politicized curriculum as “a misrepresentation of the fine work that thousands of people have put into” developing the draft document.The government has said the reformed curriculum contains plenty of opportunities for instruction of Canadian history and email@example.com/EmmaLGraney
UCP MLA Mark Smith