The Alberta provincial election is near, and for the Wolf Creek Public Schools’ (WCPS) Board of Trustees the topic of quality, well funded and supported public education remains a high priority.
Wolf Creek has six trustees serving 30 schools in nine communities throughout central Alberta, and we know that an election is a time to raise awareness, ask questions and simply advocate for schools, students and communities.
To that end, we as trustees will be advocating on various key areas throughout the election campaign. High on those key points of advocacy are mental health supports for students. We share your concern over the rising mental health needs in students, families and staff. We know there is a direct connection between mental health and student success. We urge the government to commit distinct and sufficient funding to meet these needs. As a board, we recognize that public schools are often the first place where mental health issues are identified in youth and children. WCPS has made nearly 1,000 school social worker program referrals this school year alone, with 150 referrals to outside agencies. We continue to advocate to the government for additional therapist and specialist access for students and communities.
Funding is something that impacts everything from maintaining and operating schools to providing specialized student supports. Public schools have become experts in allocating limited funds across diverse school programs. But we know that annual rising costs absorb much of the increases in education funding brought in by the government. We encourage the government to improve the funding model for K-12 education, ensuring equity across the system. It is crucial that public schools, which welcome all students and have no barrier to enrollment, are prioritized and provided the funding and resources necessary to ensure success for all students.
Part of this can be accomplished through cross ministry support. We know that increasingly student needs are extending beyond the classroom. Meeting these needs stretches classroom budgets, impacting overall student success, wellbeing and mental health. We encourage the Government of Alberta to build cross ministry partnerships to work with school boards to address these needs. As a Board, we appreciate and acknowledge that targeted funding has been helpful, but too often the need outweighs the funding. Creating funded partnerships with other government departments such as Alberta Health to provide health specific support and funding for students and schools would help ease pressure and be a great benefit to families.
The Alberta Provincial Election is an opportunity to join Trustees and advocate for schools, students and communities. No matter who you may support, it is an opportunity to talk to candidates, other parents, and to trustees about education, and about the needs of students and schools in your community.
We welcome the conversation and look forward to advocating for you during the provincial election campaign.
Luci Henry is the board chair for Wolf Creek Public Schools.