Board, minister defend figures
Hancock, Cbe disagree on deficit
It’s hard to see how it adds up to those numbers.
Opponents in the war of words that have played out in the media battleground finally faced off in person Wednesday evening.
Education Minister Dave Hancock defended his government’s education budget against officials from the Calgary Board of Education who have threatened teacher layoffs in light of a $61-million shortfall.
Hancock said the CBE’s expectations were unrealistic and he’s not sure where the board’s figures are coming from. “There’s no question there’s challenges there, but it’s hard to see how it adds up to those numbers,” he said.
The fog of dispute is casting a pall, said Leslie Newton, the co-president of the Calgary Association of Parents and School Councils, which convened the panel discussion to set the record straight.
On Tuesday, the Herald ran an op-ed article from Hancock that said the school board’s shortfall, which amounts to seven per cent of its overall budget, was unrealistic.
“No such increase was ever in the cards,” he wrote.
The CBE has responded in turn. A rebuttal has been submitted to the Herald and is expected to run on Sunday.
The board made copies of its letter to the editor and placed it on the seats of chairs set up in the gym of A.E. Cross Junior High School on Wednesday evening.
More than 300 attended the panel discussion between the minister, CBE chief superintendent Naomi Johnson, and the board’s chair, Pat Cochrane.
“Certainly our intention in speaking out was to make sure our parents, our staff knew about the really difficult situation we’re facing for next school year and would you like to help us see if we could change that,” Cochrane said.
However, she also wanted to set the record straight. “We know other people have taken up this story and positioned it as special education kids will be particularly affected. We haven’t said that, but other people have.”
Both Cochrane and Johnson tried to alleviate the fears of several parents who expressed concerns about their special needs children.
Johnson said parents should not worry just yet. Rather, her fears lay with future CBE budgets.
Johnson said the CBE could face an $85-million deficit by 2014 if the government continues to provide no real hike to school spending plans.