Education minister says UCP plan to scrap curriculum update 'outrageous'

Education Minister David Eggen is calling Jason Kenney`s plan to stop his government’s school curriculum revamp outrageous, dishonest and a political ploy to score points with UCP supporters.

UCP leader Jason Kenney says he doesn't plan to scrap everything

Education Minister David Eggen says UCP leader Jason Kenney is using the curriculum rewrite to score political points with his supporters. (Scott Neufeld/CBC )

Education Minister David Eggen is calling Jason Kenney's plan to stop his government's school curriculum revamp outrageous, dishonest and a political ploy to score points with his supporters.

"This isn't constructive criticism, it's a drive-by shooting on our curriculum and our kids' education and Jason Kenney really should be ashamed," Eggen told reporters at a media availability Sunday.

In a speech Saturday night, Kenney, the leader of the opposition United Conservative Party, said he would stop "the NDP's ideological rewrite" of the school curriculum if he becomes premier after this spring's election.

A UCP government would consult with parents and experts to develop a curriculum free of political agendas and teaching fads, Kenney added.

Eggen accused Kenney of being dishonest and using the issue for political gain.

"Jason Kenney is willing to stoop very low to quite honestly be dishonest about what's going on in our curriculum process for the sake of scoring cheap political points," Eggen said.

The $60 million update started in 2016 and is expected to take six years to complete. The government released the draft curriculum for Kindergarten to Grade 4 last year. The materials are now being tested in Alberta schools.

Eggen said thousands of people have worked on the update. 

Taking a pause

At a news conference late Sunday afternoon, Kenney used softer language, saying that he is proposing to "pause" curriculum development and do more consultation with parents and subject experts.

Kenney said he is concerned the NDP wants to emphasize social history over basic geography and Canadian history. He said outcomes in the curriculum should be put in plain language that everyone can understand.

"We agree with the NDP. The curriculum does need to be updated and modernized," Kenney said.

"There may be many things that they've produced which a future government will choose to retain.

"We don't need to throw out the baby with the bathwater but we certainly do need to get much stronger results in areas like math, reading, and I believe, a more balanced approach to social studies."

Kenney's news conference came at the end of a three-day conference in Edmonton to prepare candidates and their campaigns for the upcoming election. Under Alberta law, the vote must take place between March 1 and May 31.

Kenney announced that if becomes premier, he would reduce his salary by ten per cent. MLAs would also see their earnings go down by five per cent.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney says he agrees the curriculum needs an update. (Scott Neufeld/CBC )

Kenney also wants to disallow MLAs from claiming gas and minor vehicle maintenance charges in addition to mileage on their private vehicles, a practice he called "double-dipping."

However, such measures must be proposed and approved by MLAs on the members' services committee of the Alberta legislature.