A Day for Learning
The latest Alberta provincial government “boost” to education came recently in the form of an announcement (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200402/15973.html) of $20 million dollars to be spread across the Learning Ministry. Minister of Education, Dr. Lyle Oberg, proclaims that “As a government, we have increased funding for basic education and post-secondary learning in order to keep pace with increased demands and ensure continuous improvement in the system. These funding increases reflect a strong commitment by government to ensure our learning system remains one of the best in the world.”
The lion’s share of the twenty million is going to Early Childhood Services, such as kindergarten, with the second largest portion going to ensure that people can return to complete their grade 12 education. These two portions alone account for almost 15 million of the total twenty million boost.
However, some post-secondary students will see some benefits, as 3.5 million has been designated to go into remission and scholarship funding. So if you’re on student loans already, or are talented enough not to require them, you may see some benefit from that. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to be responsible and get your own post-secondary education, even though you probably don’t qualify for the scholarships, this announcement means you’ll see no change what-so-ever.
All in all though, as Dr. Oberg says, “Alberta’s investment amounts to $20 million a school day to support our Kindergarten to Grade 12 learning system.” So the government’s generosity (with our tax money) is apparently limited to a single day’s worth of learning.
Pardon me if I’m not seeing this as nearly good enough.
A Cashfall for Energy
In the mean-time, the Alberta Government has also provided (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200402/15963.html) over 216 million to the natural gas company in the form of natural gas rebates. This money has been provided in order to shield consumers from the sticker shock they’d suffer if the government allowed the full results of their privatization scheme to be passed on to consumers.
Fortunately, Albertans experienced better than expected revenues this year, and so that 216 million has been nicely covered and the extra sent to the government slush fund. So apparently to the Progressive Conservative government in Alberta, extra money for learning (which has totalled, including the latest 20 million dollars, a paltry 76 million dollars) is less than half as important as hiding the truth about their privatization plan from the people of Alberta.
After all, if the government wasn’t worried about what people would think if they saw what privatization was doing to their bills, that 216 million could have been spent elsewhere. True, the government would probably be out of office come the next election, but that’s what tends to happen when you make a mistake and then don’t take steps to fix it.
Alberta Slush Fund Full
The Alberta Provincial Government also announced (http://www.gov.ab.ca/acn/200402/15963.html) that their so-called “Sustainability Fund” is more than fully funded, and so excess revenues will be split 50-50 between capital projects, such as roads and buildings, and paying down the Alberta Debt.
I have serious problems with the entire idea of a sustainability fund, as all it really does is encourage Alberta leaders to create unrealistic budgets, knowing that there is a 250 billion (yes, with a “B”) dollar piggy bank waiting to be cracked open if revenues don’t match up with what they predict.
The initial rationale behind the sustainability funds were that the prices of oil and gas, Alberta’s main revenue sources, are volatile, so having such a fund allows the government to plan on receiving regular amounts. Of course, anybody who’s been watching Alberta knows that since the provincial government put in place a rational system of evaluating what oil prices are going to be over the next year, they haven’t once budgeted over what the oil revenues have managed to deliver. (I do give full credit for that system as it seems to have worked very well.)
Now, that the fund is full, however, it is legislated that any excess revenues either go to capital projects, to the debt, or simply stay in the fund. Does anybody but me see the problem with this? Since this government has run consistent surpluses over the past several years (which can also be read as starving vital programs unnecessarily), there’s no reason to assume this will stop. So just how much pavement does Alberta need?
But I’m Not From Alberta
So what does all this mean to you? Well, it means the Alberta Government is continually starving post-secondary education when there’s absolutely no need to do so. Just because you’re not an Alberta citizen doesn’t mean you have no say in what happens in Alberta. After all, as a student in Athabasca University, you have an important stake in what happens to post-secondary education here, and you can express that, both in your own province and to Alberta.
Let your government know that you’re using AU, and that you’re not alone. After all, you’re finding a way to get a post-secondary education that will eventually benefit where you live. Your province should support you in that.
Let the Alberta government know that AU is your institution of choice, so your tuition dollars are benefiting Alberta, but you need the Alberta Government’s support in order to get your province assisting, so that you can continue to go to AU.
After all, Alberta and BC now have a partnership (http://www.lrc.learning.gov.ab.ca/pro/gen/bc.htm) to acquire learning resources more efficiently. So it seems possible that other partnerships could be drawn up, especially where it can benefit voters in both provinces.
A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.