New Alberta education minister addresses teachers’ conference

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Sat, May 18 - Just weeks into her new role, Alberta's education minister addressed a large group of teachers for the first time on Saturday. The Alberta Teachers' Association annual gathering follows a contentious election campaign. As Albert Delitala reports, many in attendence worry what to expect for the year ahead – May 18, 2019

Following a contentious election campaign, Alberta’s new education minister addressed the Alberta Teachers’ Association for the first time on Saturday.

“I am deeply honoured and humbled to stand before you as the newly minted minister of education,” Adriana LaGrange told the association’s (ATA) nearly 500 teacher delegates at its 102nd Annual Representative Assembly.

“I have seen firsthand your dedication to students. Teaching is a noble vocation, not just a job.”

The new minister outlined her experience in education, serving 11 years as a school board trustee for Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and as the mother of seven children.

LaGrange said her government would prioritize educational dollars for teachers rather than overhead. She also repeated the United Conservative Party’s plan to proclaim the Education Act, as about a dozen delegates in the crowd waved rainbow flags, a symbol of the LGBTQ2 community.

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During the recent Alberta election campaign, now-premier Jason Kenney said the UCP would replace the NDP’s School Act with the former Progressive Conservative government’s unproclaimed Education Act update, impacting some of the protections for students who join GSAs in schools.

The proposed policy change sparked student-led protests across the province on May 3.

READ MORE: Student-led walkout across Alberta Friday opposing government’s GSA rules

“Teachers liked that protection because it provided clarity,” ATA president Greg Jeffery told reporters during scrum at the conference. “Teachers’ primary concern is always for the safety of his or her students, and this was a big part of ensuring that safety.”

In response to concerns the change could mean outing LGBTQ2 students, LaGrange said she disagrees with that interpretation of the legislation.

“There is no question we will have some of the strongest GSA [and] QSA-inclusive education, inclusive clubs available to students, and we are looking at protecting every student,” LaGrange said.

Alberta NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman, who was also in attendance, said her priority is to make sure those who voted NDP will have their voices heard.

“Making sure we have reasonable class sizes, that students with learning disabilities get the right supports to help them be successful, that parents aren’t asked to pay exorbitant school fees — these are some of the things that we’re nervous will be coming,” Hoffman said.

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Delegates will vote on more than 75 resolutions over the course of the conference, which runs until Monday.