Jason Kenney, candidate for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta, was a surprise addition to the Dec. 15 Clearview School Board agenda.
Kenney began by stating his assessment of the Alberta education system as ‘one of the best in Canada if not North America’ in large part because of its pluralism, with public, separate, charter and homeschooling choices providing options to correspond to the individual needs of the people.
He went on to express his concern with the direction the provincial NDP seem to be headed regarding education in Alberta.
After stating some basic facts on Clearview Public Schools, the board proceeded to describe the work Clearview is doing and the funding challenges faced by rural school divisions.
Owing to the sparsity of the area’s rural population, transportation issues, the viability of rural schools and maintaining optional courses at smaller schools are ongoing concerns for Clearview.
Though it has been suggested that it would be cheaper to run Alberta’s education system with fewer boards, Clearview is opposed to amalgamation.
They doubt large centralized boards would be able to fully appreciate local issues and provide informed local representation.
Trustee Karen Holloway emphasized the importance of rural boards and community based schools, stating that parents will put up with a lot so that ‘that local school is there’.
Clearview educates over 2370 students daily in 11 schools, nine colony schools and three outreach schools throughout the division.
The discussion moved on to examine the implications of the incoming carbon tax on Clearview schools.
With a catchment area covering approximately 7400 sq. km. transporting over 1260 students on 48 bus routes covering almost 7600 km. per day, the impact of the carbon tax levy is expected to be significant.
The board pointed out how the tax would impact operations beyond transportation including heating, hot lunch and milk programs.
“The impact will be huge,” stated Board Chair Cheri Neitz, “beyond fuel on a bus and heat in a school.”
When asked what he would do if he achieved his leadership goals, Kenney stated that he would repeal the provincial tax.
The carbon tax is “all economic pain and no environmental gain” observed Kenney, “a very expensive act of political theatre in my opinion.”