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Calgary kids to rally for Alberta education funding

Eleven-year-old Nora Vukadinovic is putting the power back in the hands of students by marching for a better education this Friday, July 10.

The Elboya School student has organized a protest parade set to start at 2 p.m. this Friday. It starts at Altadore school, passing by William Reid School and Elboya School. It will finish at Britannia Plaza around 3:30 p.m.

“I’m not sure how many people will take part, but I’m hoping that just seeing the parade will inspire other kids to organize their own events,” Nora said.

The kid-organized call to arms aims to influence the start of school year re-entry scenario. The Alberta government will decide this scenario by Aug. 1.

  • Scenario 1 – In-school classes resume, near-normal operations with health measures
  • Scenario 2 – In-school classes partially resume with additional health measures
  • Scenario 3 – At home learning continues, in-school classes are cancelled

While the website states that Scenario 1 is the “preferred and likely scenario,” Nora’s mother Susan said that none of the scenarios offer sufficient support for students.

“Class sizes were way too big even before COVID was a concern. How are they going to provide a proper education for students and ensure their health and safety with a smaller budget than before?” Susan said.

Budget putting more financial pressure on schools

According to the 2020-21 provincial budget released in February, the province will keep its K-12 education spending levels flat over the next three years. The government predicts a continued 2.2 per cent increase in enrolment annually.

Base funding, which sat at $1.9 billion between 2018-19 and 2019-20, was reduced to $1.7 billion in 2020-21, with “own-source” reserve funding expected from school jurisdictions jumping to approximately $121 million.

That $121 million will dip into school’s rainy-day funds, and undercut funds put in place for infrastructure and transportation.

In a government release from February, the province said that in the 2020/2021 school year every school division will see an increase in operational funding.

That was during an announcement to change the per-student funding model to a three-year rolling average of student enrolment. Previously it was based on annual student enrolment.

“Alberta will continue to have one of the best-funded education systems in the country,” said Adriana LaGrange, minister of education.

“This new model will drive more money to our school divisions for use in the classroom and provides them with the flexibility they need to meet the unique needs of their students.”

Susan said she believes that cuts to the education budget are a sign that the province isn’t being run properly.

“Public education and healthcare are the two biggest things the provincial government handles. Up until this point they’ve handled those things really well,” she said.

“If we want a strong Alberta, then the government needs to stay in their lane.”

Not Nora’s first rodeo

This isn’t the first time Nora has rallied against the provincial government for better education support, either.

In September 2019, Nora’s Grade 6 class approached the Alberta government asking for a third teacher to be brought on to better distribute the students.

“At the beginning of the school year, there were 36 students in one class, and 37 in another, and it was not working,” Susan said.

“The protest worked, they moved some money around and brought in another teacher, so obviously it can be done.”

Nora said she hopes that having kids organize these events themselves will result in changes that better reflect the needs of the students.

“I really want kids to have a voice on this,” she said.

“It’s a very adult-run system, and if kids who are actually experiencing these budget cuts can speak up about it, how they’re actually being affected, then hopefully the message will be more powerful.”

More information can be found on Nora’s website https://educationprotest.wixsite.com/kids