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My Platform

Invested in Calgary's kids.

Invested in Alberta's prosperity.

Below you'll find the detailed version of my platform...

The detailed version below has a lot of words. It's not for the faint of heart. 

 

If you want just the "Coles Notes" version of my platform, please

visit the main page of my campaign website at www.susanvukadinovic.com.

 

Priority #1: If I am elected to the Board of Trustees for the Calgary Board of Education on October 18th, I will push back against oversized classrooms.

Classroom

The problem I am going to solve:

  • Class sizes have ballooned since the budget cuts of 2019.

  • Here is just one of the many examples I’m hearing at people’s doors: “There are 31 kids in my daughter’s Grade 1 class and 17 of them are learning English as a second language or coded for learning disabilities or other challenges. 31 kids in Grade 1! That’s not fair to the kids who have complex needs and it's not fair to my kid either.”

 

How I will know I have succeeded:

I want to see class sizes reduced to bring them in line with the recommendations in the 2003 report from Alberta’s Commission on Learning

  • 17 students per class from Kindergarten to Grade 3, when kids are learning to read.

  • 23 kids per class in Grades 4 to 6, when kids are mastering the art of reading to learn.

  • 25 kids per class in Grades 7 to 9, when academic expectations begin to take off.

  • 27 kids per class in the crucial high-school years.

 

How I am going to solve this (Strategy #1 of 2): First, I will demand honesty from the people we elect to represent Albertans in the provincial legislature. 

  • The provincial government has cut per-student funding, but our elected representatives are trying to claim that this budget cut was actually a budget increase  by cherry-picking individual budget lines.

  • That’s not honest. I like honest.

  • Here is the truth: Yes, 2020-21 funding has increased, but it is still lower than the funding invested in our kids in 2018-19. In the meantime, the CBE opened three new schools and welcomed around 2,000 additional students.

  • The math here isn't complicated: 2,000 more students plus about the same number of teachers equals larger class sizes.

  • As a starting point, let's get on the same page about the budget cut. It is a cut. Let's call it a cut.

How I am going to solve this (Strategy #2 of 2): Secondly, I will do a better job of communicating the business case for investing in public education.

  • When there are 30-plus or even 40-plus kids in a classroom with one teacher, common sense (and research data) tells us that we're shortchanging our kids.

  • Cutting funds to public education while announcing funds for other initiatives is a choice. The amount of money the UCP has cut from public education is a drop in the bucket compared to other expenditures announced since 2019.

  • Increasing class sizes is particularly shortsighted on the heels of a pandemic that has affected the mental health, physical health and academic progress of school-aged children in different ways.

  • Alberta’s future prosperity depends on whether we are willing to invest in our kids. ​

#FundPublicEducation

 

Priority #2: I will champion a stronger partnership with Alberta Health Services (AHS) to improve access to mental health supports for students.

Woman on Window Sill

The problem I am going to solve:

  • Parents, teachers, principals, school counsellors, nurses, doctors and social workers have been pointing to rising levels of anxiety and depression among vulnerable young people amid the pandemic.

  • Even before COVID-19, the system was struggling with dramatic increases in the number of young Canadians visiting emergency rooms for suicidal ideation, self-harm, or organ failure because of eating disorders.

  • Too many young Calgarians and their families are not getting the help they need to deal with mental-health injuries (e.g., as a result of adverse childhood experiences or inter-generational trauma) and mental-health illnesses (e.g., schizophrenia, depression, etc., which often first present themselves during adolescence).

  • There is also chronic inequity in the current system: too many kids waiting too long for help, unless their parents can pay out of pocket for the treatment they need.

Why it matters:

  • According to ACCESS Open Minds, a five-year national research project intended to evaluate and transform mental health services for young people, there is a 1:10 ratio of dollars invested in mental health to dollars saved later in hospital stays and visits to emergency rooms and outpatient clinics.

  • Children can't learn to their full potential when they have untreated mental-health concerns, which is why this health issue is also a school issue. 

 

How I will know I have succeeded:

I want to see adequate access for our students and their families to mental health professionals, so teachers can focus on the work of teaching.   

How I am going to solve this: 

  • I will champion the CBE's participation in Calgary's new 2021-2023 mental health action plan, and make sure the words on paper translate into boots on the ground.

  • I am impressed to see Calgary's mayor Naheed Nenshi, the provincial UCP government's Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan and other key stakeholders and organizations working together to transform the system of early access to mental health and addiction services through schools.

  • I will work hard to keep this momentum going.

 

#ConnectTheDotsYYC

 

Priority #3: I will make the business case for restoring early intervention supports.

Children and Teacher in Kindergarten

The problem I am going to solve:

The provincial government’s cuts and restrictions to Program Unit Funding (PUF) are causing irreparable harm to delayed and disabled children and will increase the economic burden on our society in the future.

 

How I will know I have succeeded:

I want to see the provincial government reinstate funding for essential developmental therapies and support in a school setting for children with significant challenges affecting their ability to learn or manage school.  

How I am going to solve this: 

I will do a thorough job of communicating the business case for investing in early intervention therapies:

Priority #4: I will advocate for a new curriculum that prepares our kids to thrive.

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The problem I am going to solve:

In March 2021, the provincial government released a K-6 draft curriculum. Experts have identified a number of critical flaws in the proposed curriculum, and a professional review of the curriculum shows it fails to meet the provincial government's own standards. For this reason, an astonishing 56 of 61 school boards across the province have rejected participating in the pilot program for the 2021-22 school year. Parents are concerned that the flawed curriculum will nevertheless be forced upon our kids in the 2022-23 school year.  

How I will know I have succeeded:

I want the MLAs we elected to govern our province to listen to regular Albertans and shelve the draft K-6 curriculum released in March 2021. I would like to see an independent, full and open rewrite of the draft curriculum. I expect no less than a proper, world-class curriculum that is developmentally and instructionally sound for our kids.

How I am going to solve this:

I assume that UCP MLAs are doing their best to serve Albertans, but if the March 2021 draft K-6 curriculum is what their best looks like right now, it is just not good enough.

 

Albertans deserve better. Our kids deserve better.

 

Right now -- after two school years interrupted by pandemic lockdowns -- it is too risky to subject Alberta’s children to a flawed, unsound, sub-par curriculum. It is not a risk I am willing to take.

 

As a Trustee I will reach out to our elected provincial-government representatives and hammer home three key points.  

First, getting buy-in for a revised curriculum should have been a relatively straightforward task. Teachers, parents and other stakeholders across the political spectrum all agreed that the curriculum was due for an update. Everyone even largely agreed about which parts of the curriculum needed updating (e.g., science of reading (SOR), consent, financial literacy, coding). It's not too late for the UCP to turn this unnecessary political controversy into a political win.


Secondly, the UCP needs to start seeing parents as partners in education. Parents want their elected representatives to listen, to respond, and to be accountable. We all want the new curriculum to be successful, and in order to be successful, it must enjoy the broad support of Albertans.

 

And, finally, I will share with UCP MLAs a lesson that, as a parent, I’ve shared with my kids: Sometimes it is okay to STOP. Sometimes it is okay to say, “We got this wrong.“ Taking a step back is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of maturity and strength.

 

We need to get this right for the sake of our children and their learning. It matters to me. It matters for our kids.

Next steps for Albertans:

  • You can learn more about the too-long history of what should have been a routine curriculum update here.

  • You can provide your own feedback on the draft curriculum released March 29, 2021 here, here and here.)

 

 
 

Priority #5: I will do right by the kids and parents who are calling for schools to be places of equity, diversity and inclusion.

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The problem I am going to solve: Parents, kids and community members have been contacting me to say that we need to a better job of confronting xenophobia, racism and the legacy of the residential-school system in our schools and in our communities.

How I will know I have succeeded:

I want Calgary’s kids, parents and community members to feel that Trustees are taking xenophobia, racism, and systemic barriers seriously, and that Trustees are upholding the spirit of truth and reconciliation.

 

How I am going to solve this:

From 1935 to 2021, the  CBE’s science school located in Riverside-Bridgeland was named after a proponent of the residential school system. It took students who attend the school four years of petitioning the CBE to get Trustees to agree to go back to the name the school originally had when it was opened in 1909: Riverside School

 

Its a start, but there is more we can and must do.

 

I am proud that in June 2020, the CBE introduced CBE CARES: Collaboration for Anti-Racism and Equity Supports (CARES) to advance equity, anti-racism and inclusion within the CBE. I am looking forward to the release of the CBE CARES report this year, and I will ensure that the CBE acts on the recommendations. 

 

Oh, I  just couldn't resist. 
I've thrown in one more, bonus priority below.

Bonus Priority: I will bring back some good, old-fashioned Alberta pride in the CBE.

Teacher and Student

The problem I am going to solve:

There is a culture of fear at the CBE. Bashing the public-school system has become commonplace.   

How I am going to solve this: 

I will do a better job of sharing with Albertans the true and inspiring story of our efficient, effective, world-class public-education system, and the talented people who are dedicated to our children.

How I will know I have succeeded (Goal#1 of 3): 

 

First, I want politicians, voters, taxpayers and parents to be proud of how efficiently the CBE delivers a world-class education system.

When it comes to smart spending, the CBE makes the grade.

For years now I've been hearing statements such as, "No one in Canada spends as much money on education as Alberta does."

 

For years I've also been hearing that the CBE needs to reduce overhead and move staff from headquarters into the classroom, but this concern seems to be a holdover from the boom years.

  • The CBE’s actual administrative costs are a mere 2.8%, which is very low, even by private-sector standards.

  • The HQ staffing at the CBE has been leaned out over the past decade through the fiscally responsible efforts of recent trustees, the new Superintendent, the current UCP government, the previous NDP government, and the Conservative government prior to that. A lot of folks deserve credit for reducing overhead costs at the CBE.

  • The remaining employees at HQ perform valuable functions. When you’re running the largest school board in western Canada with over 14,000 staff across 250 facilities, you need people to schedule busses, process payments, and ensure student data is secured on networks.

  • Think of it this way: Even if the CBE were to completely eliminate all of the staff at headquarters, it still wouldn’t bridge the funding gap from the most recent cutbacks. And there would be nobody left to keep the lights on. 

 

Here's another statement that I've heard a few times: "Most households in Alberta have had to rein in their operational costs due to the 2007/08 recession, the drop in oil prices, and the pandemic, so you'd think that all levels of government should have to do the same." 

  • I agree that it's tough when households struggle to make ends meet, but two wrongs don't make a right.

  • Eliminating teachers to increase class sizes or eliminating janitors to let the dirt pile up on surfaces or eliminating support workers so kids with disabilities have to fend for themselves will not fix our economy and it won't make us feel better about our constrained household finances. ​

  • I don't agree that Alberta's children have to do their share of feeling the pain of Alberta's economic downturn. 

 

More information about the CBE's efficient financial management is available here, here, and here

How I will know I have succeeded (Goal#2 of 3):

 

Secondly, I want politicians, voters, taxpayers and parents to be proud of how effectively the CBE delivers a world-class education system.

Lately I've heard people making statements such as, "No one in Canada spends as much money on education as Alberta does, yet we rank the lowest in test scores."

Lately I've also heard a number of people casually claim as fact that a private-school education or a charter-school education is inherently better than a public-school education. 

  • That's not necessarily true.

  • All schools in Alberta teach the same provincial-government curriculum.

  • All schools in Alberta hire teachers who learned their craft from the same universities.

  • All schools have parents who are committed to their kids and who will do everything in their power to help their kids succeed

  • A public-school education in our province is a top-quality education.

Young Academic Girl
Teacher and Pupils

How I will know I have succeeded (Goal#3 of 3): 

 

And finally, I want to hear people expressing gratitude for the kind souls who are attracted to the teaching profession.

  • Lately I've heard some people grousing that teachers still have jobs, when so many other Calgarians have experienced pay cuts and job losses.

  • I don't really get this race-to-the-bottom mindset.

  • If we were to arbitrarily eliminate teaching jobs and cut teacher salaries (which haven't increased in Alberta since 2011) just to spread the economic pain to more Albertans, we'd end up with even larger class sizes, an even smaller tax base (remember, teachers pay taxes, too), and our economy would suffer an even larger downturn (because teachers are consumers, too).

  • Recently I received a flyer in my mailbox extolling the benefits of a government-funded infrastructure project that is bringing steady, well-paying jobs to Alberta. Shouldn't we use the same proud language to describe jobs in education as we use to describe jobs in construction? 

  • Teaching children is physically demanding and mentally punishing work that keeps teachers on their feet for most of the day.

  • It’s a hands-on profession, not one for paper pushers.

  • Teachers are the backbone of schools. We can’t afford to keep breaking their backs.     

 
 

What do you think about my platform?

Am I missing anything important?

I'd love to hear from you! My contact info is below.

And please remember to vote on October 18, 2021.

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