Provincial funding to the association supporting parent councils around Alberta has been axed by 90 per cent.
The Alberta School Councils’ Association (ASCA) says funding from Alberta Education had already shrunk by 75 per cent to $170,000, and has now been reduced to only $15,000.
“It’s a real blow to public education, and it’s a real blow to parents being the vocal and empowered advocates that they are locally and provincially, and it happened within the space of two years,” said Brandi Rai, ASCA president.
The association provides school councils with support and resources, including knowledge and skill development, consultation and workshops.
Katherine Stavropoulos, Minister of Education press secretary, said the association has been using government grants to pay for staffing, rent, and other administrative expenses – essentially funding their operations.
“We’ve made it clear to them that we will no longer fund their operations. This is in line with other education partners such as the College of Alberta School Superintendents, or the Alberta School Boards Association,” Stavropoulos said.
Alberta Education does not provide operational funding to non-government organizations, she said.
The $15,000 grant is for the ASCA to look at COVID-19 learning loss by assisting school councils to contribute to local, jurisdictional, and provincial efforts to identify and mitigate the learning loss.
Rai said any project funded by the province requires staff and resources to complete the project.
“Funding has not funded the operations. It has funded the project work,” Rai said.
Stavropoulos said the perspective of parents is extremely important to the province.
“This commitment is exemplified in the grant funding for every school council, valued at $1 million (Alberta School Council Engagement Grant), and the appointment of the Minister’s Parent Advisory Council – many of whom, are also members of their local school council.”
Rai said people want to know why Alberta Education cannot support both the ASCA and school councils. For now, the ASCA will keep looking for alternative revenue streams “because we know that this is good work and it needs to be done.”
NDP Education critic Sarah Hoffman has told the ASCA that the NDP is committed to reinstating the funding so the association can continue to do the advocacy work that is vital to the success of Alberta’s public school system.
“That seems like a cruel cut focused at trying to silence parents who have been rightfully speaking up and fighting for a curriculum that’s modern and inclusive and sets their kids up for success,” said Hoffman about the UCP’s funding cut.
She said instead of supporting an association that’s been around for many years, the education minister wants to be able to hand pick 40 people for an advisory council and say it’s representative of parents.