Edmonton

Edmonton trustee calls for emergency debate on Education Act changes

Edmonton public school trustee Michael Janz is calling for an emergency debate into changes to the Education Act introduced by the United Conservative government.

'We can not wait for consultation,' says Michael Janz

Edmonton public school trustee Michael Janz says the "rapid implementation" of an amended Education Act would create upheaval in Alberta classrooms. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Edmonton public school trustee Michael Janz is calling for an emergency debate into changes to the Education Act introduced by the United Conservative government.

The act, when passed, will overhaul grade-school education for the first time in a generation.

After winning the provincial election this year, the UCP introduced changes to the act in Bill 8.

Janz wants proclamation of Bill 8 to be delayed by at least a year.

"While there are aspects of the bill that are positive, the potential benefits of those changes are outweighed by the rapid implementation," Janz said in an interview with CBC News Friday.

"We need to get our feedback into the process as soon as possible. We can not wait for consultation."

'Sound the alarm'

An emergency debate will inform parents of the impending changes and help "sound the alarm" on some of the more concerning aspects of the act, Janz said.

Janz said he will introduce a motion for debate at the board's regular public meeting on Tuesday.

Calls by hundreds of school trustees and educators asking for more time to implement the changes have been ignored by the new Kenney government, he said.

Schools need time to adapt, Janz said.

"The new government appears intent on pushing it through this session and sadly, it appears the minister has already forgotten her roots as a locally-elected school trustee," Janz said. "She would remember how harmful it is to have rapid legislation changes like this.

The Education Act, meant to replace the 31-year-old School Act and governs everything from school attendance to district boundaries and trustee voting, was passed in the legislature in 2012 and amended in 2015, but never proclaimed into law.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange introduced Bill 8 Wednesday with the goal of implementing the Education Act by Sept. 1 in time for the new school year.

Bill 8 would remove existing legal protections passed by the former NDP government for gay-straight alliances, also known as GSAs, in schools.

It also lifts a cap on specialized charter schools.

Fully-funded private schools are a form of taxation without representation, Janz said.

"I'm very, very concerned that some of these changes are implementing an American-style, risky, ideological agenda with increased privatization and segregation," Janz said.

"This is the wrong prescription for the wrong problem.- Michael Janz

Educators and families are concerned about the upheaval the act may cause, Janz said.

"When I talk to parents about what's stressing them, they're not asking for this legislation, they're asking for more support for special-needs students, smaller class sizes," he said

"This is the wrong prescription for the wrong problem. The government — they would lose nothing by delaying this for a year.

"To ram this through doesn't make sense to me."

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The Alberta School Boards Association has urged the government to to hold off on implementation to give schools time to adapt, but LaGrange said the government is working to make it an easy fit.

"We've tried to mitigate all of those pieces that would have caused disruption," she said during question period Wednesday.

"It should be fairly seamless."

With files from the Canadian Press

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