Local school boards to continue to play important role, says minister

Local school boards will continue to play an important role in the province’s education future, according to the education minister.

“The role of the local school board is absolutely critical,” said Dave Hancock, education minister. “If we’re going to successful in education there needs to be community engagement. The local school board’s primary role is engaging the local community in the system.

“Historically we’ve had a system where it’s been almost isolated from the community where people see the education system as a place where their kids go and they come back with an education. We’ve got to have a value in our society that says education is the most fundamental thing that we can do and school boards are how we attach the community to the school system.”

Hancock made a stop in Red Deer this week, speaking at the Alberta School Boards Association’s spring general meeting.

In terms of teacher layoffs, Hancock said he hopes that boards have done all they can do to avoid that.

“There’s different circumstances in different areas,” he said. “But I think all boards are interested in the same thing and that’s making sure that’s the best educational opportunities for their students.”

The province recently announced the construction of three schools in Red Deer. One will be a new Francophone Kindergarten – Grade 12 school and two new K-5 schools which will be constructed over the next couple of years.

With the talk of teacher layoffs, Hancock said there is no worry about how these new schools will be staffed.

“There’s no linkage between capital funds and teachers,” said Hancock. “We fund on a per capita basis. The education budget is a demand-driven budget. It funds every student that goes into the system. If you’ve got students and their funded then you’ve got money to pay for the teachers.

“We lose about 4,000 teachers a year to retirement and leave. On a net basis that number is probably closer to 2,200 teachers because there are about 1,800 that come back. If we go down about 1,200 full-time equivalent positions, the question is how much of that is going to impact the classroom? At the end of the day, come the fall, I think the full-time equivalent number will be lower than that.”

The Alberta School Boards Association general meeting wrapped up yesterday.