NDP, staff and parents calling on UCP to reverse education cuts

by Morinville News Staff

Premier Jason Kenney has been called on by the NDP staff and parents to reverse a $128-million cut to Alberta’s schools announced by press release Saturday afternoon. The Official Opposition charge that the cuts will force more than 20,000 layoffs and remove critical support to students when the NDP say they are most needed.

“This Government has made a terrible, cruel decision and it has been met with desperate cries from parents, students and the staff themselves,” said NDP Education Critic Sarah Hoffman. “The Premier has said he would spare no expense when it came to supporting Albertans through these difficult times, but what he’s done will make life a lot harder for thousands upon thousands of kids and will put thousands more people out of work.”

Hoffman went on to say it is time for the Premier to admit he was wrong and restore the funding.

The NDP is also critical of the weekend announcement by Education Minister LaGrange by media release and a post on Twitter and the fact the Minister did not make herself available to media.

The opposition cites internal communication to school boards thy say called for the termination of all educational assistant positions, limiting the use of substitute teachers and other position cuts. The NDP says educators were caught off guard by the announcement.

St. Albert Educational Assistant Lee-Ann Kalen disagrees with the UCP assertion that EAs are not working during school closures.

[A]long with the stress of setting up virtual classrooms and dealing with students and parents who are understandably stressed out by the COVID situation, Educational Assistants now worry about how our students will be able to cope without us,” Kalen said in the NDP’s media release Monday. “On May 1st, COVID or not, there will still be special needs kids, but they are being thrown overboard by the Kenney government.”

Jessica Kewley, a mother with four special needs children is also critical of the province’s decision.

“Hearing that my kids won’t have the support of their Educational Assistant was devastating,” she said. “My kids, like so many others, need their EAs so that they can keep up with their studies. I expected this government to look out for our most vulnerable but what they’ve done is basically thrown them under the bus.”

The UCP said Saturday that any savings from the cuts will be redirected into its COVID-19 response and that funding would be restored when in-person classes resume.

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