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Alberta Party leader pledges to create 60,000 new school spaces for K-12

The party, if elected, would spend $190 million over four years to build or modernize 25 schools each year. 

Party would spend $190 million to build or modernize 100 schools over four years

The Alberta Party would also work alongside rural school boards to review funding in light of declining enrolment and transportation issues. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

By building schools and adding teaching support, the Alberta Party would create 60,000 new school spaces for students from kindergarten through grade 12, party leader Stephen Mandel said Thursday. 

Mandel said the party, if elected, would budget $190 million over four years to build or modernize 25 schools per year. 

"I don't believe there's anything more important than our children and making sure they're properly educated," Mandel said during an announcement about the Alberta Party education platform.

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The other element of the plan is to expand support for teachers in classrooms, a measure that would be in addition to a previously announced increase in educational assistants.

"We have to have teachers and they have to have support. One of the most significant things I found in dealing with, and talking with, the teachers is that the complexity of classrooms are so different today," Mandel said.

"That's why we need these extra supports to make it work. Otherwise it's not the kids who are challenged that aren't getting attention but it's also all the other kids in the class," he added.

Mandel would also like to increase the cap on education funding from age 19 to 25, so that more people can complete their high school education.

Other plans include boosting the current inclusive education budget for school boards from $460- to $690-million a year. Mandel's idea is that funding would be used to attract and train teachers from "under-represented and non-traditional backgrounds".

The Alberta Party would also work alongside rural school boards to review funding in light of declining enrolment and transportation issues.

Comparing commitments

The Alberta Party's commitment to K-12 education is similar to the NDP promises. Both parties intend to increase education spending to keep up with growing enrolment. If elected, the NDP would provide $1.3 billion to build or modernize 70 schools across Alberta.

NDP leader Rachel Notley has also committed to adding 1,000 new teachers and staff to schools across the province this fall.

In addition, the party would spend $5 million each year to replace 100 aging and outdated playgrounds, plus reduce tuition fees for high school upgrading and English language classes.

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For its part, the United Conservative Party plans to replace the current School Act, which includes the NDP bill to strengthen protections for gay-straight alliances, with the Education Act.

The UCP's new act would bring changes to the classroom including increased teacher testing, lifting the cap on the number of charter schools in Alberta, and removing principals from the ATA bargaining unit.

The UCP would also review funding for both urban and rural schools.

The party initially released their education platform in March, but since then the UCP has revised two elements of their plan — they would not bring back grade three provincial achievement tests, nor would they reinstate the 50-per-cent weighted diploma exam.

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