Open Letter on the Temporary Adjustment to K-12 Education Funding

Canadian Parents for French is a nationwide, research-informed, volunteer organization

Minister LaGrange:

Canadian Parents for French (CPF) Alberta is disappointed to hear of the adjustment to K-12 funding that you announced today. Though we appreciate that savings will be re-allocated to support Alberta’s COVID-19 response, the gap in supports that is the result of the cuts is of significant concern.

CPF Alberta supports universal access – to not only French-second-language education, but all education – whether it is in an actual physical classroom, a virtual one or through a variant of online education. Social distancing, the closure of schools and the limiting of all non-essential services, has caused significant stress on our students, parents and our education partners. Many of our students are having challenges with the fact that there have been extreme changes in their day-to-day routine. They have suddenly lost their social network and their in-class supports that are normally in place to ensure their success. Educational assistants (EAs) are a very important part of the education system and the classroom. They work with students who have learning disabilities, challenges and exceptionalities from K-12, and among other things:

  • work with English language learners;
  • assist teachers in division 1 and early-childhood classrooms;
  • provide one-on-one targeted support to all students (K-12);
  • work with the teachers to prepare one-on-one programming for the students with whom they work;
  • assist the teachers with general lesson preparation and classroom set-up;
  • monitor and document behaviours;
  • identify, curb and prevent potentially disruptive behaviours – quite often before they occur;
  • provide firsthand knowledge and expertise in assisting students to meet some of the physical and
  • educational challenges that they may face (e.g. identify and start assisting with fine and gross motor
  • many EAs have also been trained as “para-pros” – individuals who can identify initial signs of challenges, learning disabilities and cognitive delays;
  • provide another set of eyes and ears to help the teachers identify and meet the reality of today’s learners;

  • and provide the students with someone that they can trust.

They are the unsung heroes in our classrooms.

In this new online or virtual environment, many of the above duties and responsibilities are going to be even more important and necessary. EAs are an essential part of student’s education and have already:

  • continued to work one-on-one with students to meet their specific needs and requirements;
  • continued working with students who have Individual Program Plans (IPPs);
  • connected with teachers to help set-up their on-line classrooms;
  • used their knowledge of technology (access/acquire internet and coordinate the provision of technology
  • for those who have none) to help parents at home;
  • worked with other students who are experiencing challenges due to the new reality;
  • continued to provide a trusting adult with whom the students can connect;
  • put together packages of educational materials for students who are not able to connect online;
  • continued to support and assist newcomers to Canada to ensure that information is being understood;
  • provided another consistent face to support learners;
  • assisted parents with the educational requirements of the target language; and
  • the list goes on.

Education assistants are a need to have – not a nice to have! With these cuts, we continue to have concerns about how students with unique needs will be supported through this difficult time – many parents are struggling and need as much help as possible. These changes will impact academic outcomes and – more importantly – negatively affect the mental health of students, parents and teachers. The initial cost savings cannot begin to address the negative impact that we will experience for many years to come. Parents need to have the EAs to support their children and to help them support their children. An immediate review of this decision would hopefully demonstrate that it requires further consultation and review.

Canadian Parents for French is a nationwide, research-informed, volunteer organization that represents 25,000

members across Canada and champions the opportunity to learn and use French for all those who call Canada

home.

Respectfully,

Victoria Wishart, P.Eng.

President

Coronavirus

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