Rachel Notley announces $103M for education; CYOC to stay open
WATCH: School boards and parents are cheering the new NDP government after money cancelled by the PC government was reinstated. They also announced the CYOC will stay open. Gary Bobrovitz reports.
CALGARY – Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says her government will allocate an additional $103 million to the province’s education budget, instead of the cutbacks proposed by the Progressive Conservatives.
The NDP says it will restore funding to previously announced cuts to school and classroom resources, such as transportation, inclusive education, and First Nations, Metis and Inuit.
Notley said education funding will also be maintained to cover the “two per cent salary increase and one per cent lump sum payment under the previously negotiated Teacher Agreement.”
CUPE Alberta President Marle Roberts welcomed the additional funding.
“With 12,000 new kids entering the system in the fall, we need this additional funding,” Roberts said in a statement.
“This will ensure we have well-maintained schools, with the support students need.”
Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) President Mark Ramsankar said he was “encouraged” by Notley’s announcement, but called on school boards to make sure the funding makes its way to classrooms.
“This new funding will have limited value to learning if it is not allocated in a way that supports the front lines of education,” said Ramsankar in a statement. “I expect immediate revisions to school board budgets based on old data to ensure that added educational assistant and teacher complements will be in place when schools open in September.”
School boards must provide their budgets for the 2015-2016 school year to Alberta Education by June 30.
WATCH: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks to media after day two of cabinet meetings.
Wildrose education critic Mark Smith said the party believes every child deserves a world-class education, but it’s critical to keep a watchful eye on the money spent.
“We hope (Education) Minister David Eggen will soon make clear where the dollars for this funding will come from, and that we can start to focus on other important challenges our education system is facing.”
Calgary Young Offenders Centre to stay open
Notley also announced the cancellation of the closure of the Calgary Young Offenders Centre that had been announced by the PCs. Young offenders housed at the CYOC will no longer need to be moved away from their families and sent to the Edmonton Young Offender Centre, as Jim Prentice’s government had proposed.
“The decision to keep the centre open means youth can continue to access the support they need closer to home,” said Minister of Justice and Solicitor General and Minister of Aboriginal Relations Kathleen Ganley in a statement. “Youth can remain close to their families and their support network, and better prepare to be a positive influence in their community.”
The centre will reopen “over the coming weeks” based on court dates and staffing arrangements.
The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) applauded the decision, which will impact young offenders from Red Deer to the U.S. border.
“We’re very pleased the new premier and her government recognizes the important role CYOC plays in the rehabilitation and reintegration of impressionable and vulnerable young offenders,” said AUPE vice president Erez Raz in a statement.
“We’re also pleased that youth who have been moved out of CYOC will be able to come back to Calgary and be closer to their support networks.”
Full audit of Alberta’s finances a possibility
Notley spoke to reporters following the final day of the first cabinet meeting of the new NDP government.
On Wednesday—her first time in Calgary’s McDougall Centre—Notley said she was surprised by the state of Alberta’s finances since taking over from Jim Prentice and the PCs. She said Thursday the New Democrats are still considering a full audit.
“Certainly people in the larger world have suggested that has happened in other transitions, and particularly when you’ve got one government that’s been in play for a very long time,” she said. “But we’re still deliberating.”
The premier has said there will be an interim budget in the coming weeks to keep the province functioning while the government works to have a full budget ready by the fall.
She said it’s too soon to say if Alberta’s projected $5-billion deficit for this fiscal year will need to be changed.
“In terms of the issues around the deficit and our spending commitments, those are … issues that are more appropriately considered in the overall discussion of the budget … something which I must admit, after three days on the job, we have not finalized.”
With files from The Canadian Press
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