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Editorial: It's time to resolve class sizes

February 4, 2019 Jonathan Teghtmeyer

It’s a good thing these are not scratch ’n sniff cards. I cannot really stomach the smell of one can of sardines, let alone 400,000.

That is how many interactive print cards will be distributed by teachers across the province in advance of the spring provincial election. The cards imitate the cover of a sardine can to draw attention to class size and other education-related issues among voters and candidates (see page 5).

The punchline, delivered in accompanying radio and online advertising, says our kids deserve quality classrooms, not sardine cans.

The advertising campaign, slated to start this month, will run through the election period. The Alberta Teachers’ Association registered with Elections Alberta to become a third-party advertiser to remain compliant with new rules set out in the Elections Finance and Contributions Disclosure Act (EFCDA). The act allows third-party advertisers to spend up to $150,000 in advance of the election period and another $150,000 during the campaign period. The Association plans to spend $270,000 on its advertising campaign.

We will advocate for small class sizes, and we are hoping all of the parties will become associated with that issue.

This is an investment on behalf of teachers toward ensuring Alberta continues to have a high-quality public education system regardless of who wins the 2019 election.

While many third party advertisers — also referred to as PACs or political action committees — are advertising in support of or against a political party or candidate, the Association’s campaign will remain non-partisan and issues-focused.

Nevertheless, the act also requires third parties to register if they take a stand on an issue that is associated with any party or candidate. We will advocate for small class sizes, and we are hoping all of the parties will become associated with that issue. We want the parties to outline clear plans for reducing class sizes and allocating the required funding to do so.

The print pieces direct teachers, parents and other voters to a website,, that will focus on education in the provincial election. Visitors can learn more about important issues in education, read the platforms and policies of all the main parties and follow education-related news emerging from the campaign trail.

While pipelines, jobs and the economy are sure to dominate the campaign, we want to make sure that education is not forgotten as a priority issue. That’s where teachers come in.

First, we will be distributing these cards to locals on a basis of 10 cards per teacher, and locals will likely be asking teachers to help distribute the cards publicly. Second, we want teachers to reach out to candidates — on the doorsteps, by phone, at forums and events — to ask them about their plans to support public education. Third, we want teachers to get involved as individuals in the election and support their favourite candidates: take a lawn sign, volunteer on a campaign, go door knocking, make a tax-deductible donation.

Find a way to make a difference for education over the next eight weeks.

For more than 15 years we have been beating the drum on class size and complexity. And while efforts have been made to fix the problem, they have largely failed, and we now have larger classes than we did in 2001. The current government is proud that it has provided funding for student population growth, but more still needs to be done. The problem has been well-documented in recent months, and we have piqued public awareness of the issue.

Now we need a lasting resolution. And this election presents a real opportunity for us to get this years-old issue resolved. It happens by getting each and every party to recognise the severity of the issue and to outline concrete plans to address it.

Bad smells left unaddressed just start smelling worse and worse, so we’re using sardine cans to get the attention of voters and candidates. Because large classes really stink! ❚

I welcome your comments—contact me at

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