Today the Province announced approval of three modernizations of Edmonton Public Schools: Ross Sheppard, Vimy Ridge, Belgravia; and a new replacement school for up to three mature neighborhood schools.  This announcement is welcome news for providing improved learning facilities for the students in those schools.  Edmonton Public continues to advocate for new schools to address growth and enrolment pressures in our new neighborhoods.  Our MLA Matt Jeneroux has been advocating on behalf of these communities and I thank Matt for his advocacy.

The Board also met today (Board package can be accessed here). Highlights include:

– The Board approved a recommendation for the Board Chair to write a letter to the Premier in support of the Child Care Poverty Reduction Report authored by the Alberta College of Social Workers, Public Interest Alberta, and the Edmonton Social Planning Council.  While I support the goal of the Board encouraging the Province to end child poverty because of the positive educational impacts, I voted in opposition to the recommendation as worded.

I spoke in favor of receiving the report for information. My reasons were 3 fold:

1. The Board’s Advocacy committee had not been asked to examine where this recommendation fits in the advocacy plan currently under development.

2. The wording of the recommendation ties the Board to supporting the Report authored by outside parties.  To my knowledge, the Board has no specific data that our constituents support the methodology and recommendations of the Poverty Reduction Report.

3. One specific recommendation of the Poverty Reduction Report is a call for changes to the Provincial tax structure.  The 2010-2013 Edmonton Public Board decided against requesting a temporary tax levy to fund school infrastructure, a feature that already exists within current tax policy. It strikes me as inconsistent that the current Board would now endorse changes to taxation policy as a means to address child poverty reduction, when our predecessors chose not to use this tool for an item within our mandate.

The debate of this recommendation shed light on these cautions, and I am confident that the Board Chair’s letter will focus more on urging achievement of reducing child poverty than on the how to get there.  I don’t think it sets a good precedent for one level of government to tell another level of government how to go about achieving its objectives, especially in areas outside our direct mandate.

– The Board received information about the Lost Prizes Program used by several Manitoba school districts to improve outcomes for disengaged youth.  Learning about potentially effective programs is important work of the District.  I am particularly interested in learning whether the program has been successfully delivered in urban settings.

– I received the District administration’s response to my question from the December 3, 2013 Board meeting about whether the proposed Lewis Farms junior high school in the District’s current 3 year Capital Plan can meet the enrolment growth we expect over the next few years.  The administration’s response is that it does not.  This request provided an opportunity to advocate on behalf of communities outside the Henday that future versions of the 3 year Capital Plan need to better reflect the need for new schools as identified by data from the growth accommodation consultation.