Education, Women and the UCP
Watching the UCP handle education and post-secondary education is much like watching a horrible car wreck. There’s really no other way to describe it. And we shouldn’t be surprised. We’ve seen it before. These kamikaze cuts sound good on the surface, but they do irreparable damage to these services, as well as the people, rural communities, and youth who rely on them.
The Extermination of Alberta’s Education
The one thing the UCP has made crystal clear is that it hates academics. After massive cuts to both education and post-secondary education, boards and institutions across the province scrambled to find savings. To support my statement, I present to you this list:
Alberta’s Post-Secondary Institutions
- Campus Alberta grant reduction of 18%
- Indigenous Learning Institute axed
- Post-Secondary trades programs cut
- Job losses include:
- UofA – 650 jobs lost
- NAIT – 240 jobs gone
- UofC – 150 jobs + 25 jobs eliminated
- UofL – 42 with more on the way
- MHC – 41 jobs, 5 entire degree programs
- LCC – 17 jobs
Macewan– At least 10 jobs gone (‘An extremely difficult decision’: MacEwan University eliminates 10 positions citing provincial funding cuts*)
- Red Deer College – 48 jobs
The NDP reports that the UCP cuts elimination 3,538 jobs in post-secondary education since the last election. Now, normally I’d hesitate to believe this number since it came from the NDP, but after looking at Hansard and the many announcements made by post-secondary institutions, I believe them. These aren’t the only negative effects of UCP policy decisions.
Tuition has skyrocketed making it far too expensive for a lot of students:
- Athabasca University increased tuition by 7%
Macewanput in a 10% increase and eliminated multiple online and evening courses
- NAIT and SAIT – 7% increase
- University of Lethbridge – 7% increase
- And it will continue to increase for up to a maximum of 21%
Many of the other supports post-secondary students rely on are also gone. One of these programs was STEP, which created 12,000 jobs for students in just 4 years. And if that wasn’t enough, the government decided to make even more money by increasing student loan interest to prime + 1% so they can make money off students who have already gone to school. Lastly, the removal of the student loan tax credit and education tax credit adds insult to injury
Given our current economy, I understand the need for post-secondary education cuts, but this isn’t how you do it. You work with stakeholders, phase in cuts, and reduce in a systematic way that limits (or at least controls) the chaos they cause. There was no attempt to do that here.
If you are an Albertan and planning to go to school in Alberta, you’re screwed. Hopefully, you’ve developed a taste for hot dogs and ramen, and you’ve been nice to your parents. You’re going to need their basement for a good long while.
Alberta Education System
The disregard the UCP has for Alberta’s children is palpable.
- 2,600 support workers in elementary, middle, and high schools lost their jobs
- UCP took increased control of school board finances in a move that will not allow the school board to use reserve funds without permission of the minister.***
- When th
e schoolboards spoke out, the UCP threatened them with an audit even though they’d just been audited and pushed to shut them up
- When th
- Edmonton laid off 1900 staff, as well as 429 education assistants and 178 teachers
- Elk Island Public Schools eliminated 87.5 jobs
- Education tax credit gone
- The UCP cut $126 million (originally mistaken as $136 million) from Alberta education and lied about it
- Don’t worry though. They gave back $99 million for a net loss of $27 million.
- To put this into perspective, their new oil and gas war room costs $30 million, and they will not release any details on how they spend it. The budget for this little brainchild wasn’t cut until well into the pandemic, and then only for three months.
- PUF programs went up in smoke
- Alberta Distance Learning is done. During a pandemic. When more people are turning to online learning…In fact, it was cut so badly that it had to close one year early. That would have sucked if you were hoping to finish a degree while working or living in a rural community.
- Parkland School Division reduced its early education program by more than half.
- At least for some parents, they won’t have to worry about the cuts. They won’t be able to afford the bussing fees to get their children to school. In Calgary, you can buy a new computer for the same price as a year’s bus fees. And there were 160 bus attendants moved from the bus line to the unemployment line.
But don’t worry folks! The UCP is totally going to look into it. Except for class sizes. They aren’t interested in that statistic. I’m sure you are all hopeful. I mean, it’s not like they haven’t lied to us before. Students with disabilities weren’t left out, either. Alberta lost 14 preschools for special needs kids alone.
The UCP LOVES Private Schools
If all of these moves haven’t pissed you off enough, this might do it: elite private schools** were not only missed in these cuts, but they were given additional funding. To make sure these schools are well compensated, the government decided to push more students into charter schools. Can you see where the UCP is going with education?
And here’s the scariest part: it’s not just about the money. They removed the word “public” from public schools and ensured private schools could thrive. They even removed the cap on the amount of taxpayer money they can get.
They openly reprimanded high schools for teaching a curriculum that is disloyal to oil companies. All hail our mighty greasy overlords. That’s right. They audited the Calgary Board of Education even though it had just been audited two years before that. Then, they drove the message home by threatening to fire the school board. They re-introduced PAT tests even though they’re expensive, not all that fair, and don’t measure what they think they do. They even went after the poorest students in the province by cancelling breakfast grants (until people got loud enough).
To bring education more in line with UCP ideology, they tossed out the new curriculum Alberta recently put into place so they could replace it with a UCP-approved curriculum. It’s important to note that the group in charge of creating this new curriculum didn’t have a single, current Alberta teacher on it. Pretty sure that I’ve heard a similar story somewhere...Yup, I’ve definitely seen this tactic before.
To the UCP, Alberta’s children appear to be nothing more than a commodity, expense, and a nuisance. They compare schools to liquor stores and see Indigenous experiences and views as nothing more than a fad. They’re perfectly fine with it if some of our children get sick or die from COVID, and even refused to release documents or plans about re-entry. We do know, however, that they planned to give students masks. That contract went to a UCP party donor who conveniently lives in the Minister of Education’s riding. Much easier to meet up wearing trench coats that way. Less conspicuous.
UCP Spreads the Wealth…To Their Friends
Now, I am trying not to be biased in my treacherous journey into this mountain of bullshit, but I will admit that I got so angry compiling this list that I had to walk away from my computer multiple times. Many of these decisions range from mildly stupid to devastating, but when you see them together, I’m disgusted by the open and blatant pillaging of the young, vulnerable, and marginalized — all while funnelling cash to themselves, their friends (who tend to take the money and run), private companies, and the energy industry.
The UCP has been pushing trade schools. And while I agree that these are important jobs, and should be promoted, these positions pay significantly less than many jobs that require post-secondary education. Secondly, it won’t push their respective industries ahead. Lastly, surprisingly enough, skilled trade professionals are what his friends in the oil and gas industry need.
Now, think about this for a moment: Economics 101 is supply and demand. When supply exceeds demand, the price of that thing falls. When there are lots and lots of welders, but there aren’t a lot of jobs for welders, what happens to the salary for that position? They’ve also made it easy for businesses to apply for exemptions from labour standards, waged a war on unions, eliminated or reduced overtime, cut minimum wage, and made it easy for lower-wage workers to get screwed. Little convenient, don’t you think? I’m sensing a theme here…
Education Is Only For Alberta’s Rich
Those seeking to better themselves will need to make a choice: don’t go or live with astronomical debts for decades after. And even if Albertans can find a way to afford their education, they won’t be able to go if they’re working. How do you hold down two or more jobs (because they pay less than minimum wage — less than a living wage) and go to school?
Online learning has been slashed to the point of starvation. In many instances, they were eliminated. And if you have kids, this is even more difficult with costs rising, no childcare supports, and universities taking fewer students in many of their programs (if they haven’t cut the programs entirely).
“Well, they can save up or work if they want to go to school,” you say. Well, maybe. Except that teenagers and anyone working less than 28 hours per week now gets paid LESS than minimum wage, and they may freeze or lower minimum wage before you graduate.
This strategy reeks of a party looking to make the rich richer by ignoring or taking advantage of the poor. If they can’t take advantage of them, they’re definitely pushing them out of the province. And it makes sense when you think about it. They don’t have to worry about any social services at all that way. Think of all the money they’ll save! Real Albertan heroes!
They are not interested in seeing anyone succeed who doesn’t make large amounts of money or support their political party in a significant way. And that, dear reader, leaves a large portion of women behind and considerably worse off.
* I refuse to link to the paper. I included the article title so you can search for the source if you’d like.
** Public school proponents push for cut in funding to Alberta private schools
***Alberta government would give itself more power over school finances under new bill