Calgary

'My big hammer is to fire the board': LaGrange says trustee jobs dependent on CBE review outcome

Alberta's education minister says she'll clean house at the Calgary Board of Education if an independent review proves it's necessary. 

Report is due back to the minister by Jan. 31 2020

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the independent, external review into the Calgary Board of Educations finances and governance has begun. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Alberta's education minister says she'll clean house at the Calgary Board of Education if an independent review proves it's necessary. 

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says she's anxious to see what the review of CBE's finances reveals, but she says one thing is already clear: someone's math is off.

"I have called for the governance review and the fiscal review because there is quite a disparity between what I know to be the real numbers and what's going on in terms of their decision-making," she told CBC News on Tuesday. 

Earlier that day, the review, which will be conducted by Grant Thornton LLP, was officially launched. 

LaGrange says the goal is to look at the decisions that are being made and how the $1.2-billion budget is being spent.

"The whole City of Calgary runs on a $3.5-billion budget, roughly," she said. 

"And I have one school division with 130,000 students that is spending $1.2 billion whose first recourse prior to even looking at their reserves, looking at any other alternatives, was to give pink slips to roughly 300 teachers."

Interview with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange 14:00

LaGrange says if the review finds that bad decisions are being made habitually by CBE trustees — she'll do something about it.

"My big hammer is to fire the board, but, you know, I'm hoping not to go there," she said.

Motives questioned

The private roundtable discussion held in northeast Calgary on Thursday was intended to focus on the development of the Choice in Education Act — which the Alberta government states will "affirm that parents are the primary decision-makers in their child's education."

"It's more respecting the fact that there is choice and that we value choice," said the minister.

However, funding and other issues became the focus of the conversation.

Allan Benvin, the father of two CBE students, attended the private round table with LaGrange.

He said, after listening to LaGrange, he questions her motives for the review.

Allan Benvin, a CBE parent, says it seems as if the CBE is being targeted. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

"It sounds to me like she's got a bit of a political axe to grind. They seem to be targeting the CBE," he said.

"Her answer to a lot of questions was, 'well, the CBE has a budget of $1.2 billion,' but she never said what the budget should be. She says it's $1.2 billion, so obviously they should be able to cut some money."

But Benvin says there have already been cuts over the years.

"And to say we can't just throw money at a problem is not an answer if you haven't funded it properly to begin with," he said.

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta,. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson

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