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Letters to the editor


Don’t look to California for solutions

Re: Viewpoints column “Taxes are a helpful way to pay for education.”
Jan. 15, ATA News

Once again, I must raise objection to Mr. Teghtmeyer’s unhealthy fascination with taxation. The Viewpoints article he co-authored with Ian Hanna is a classic example of everything wrong with the idea of state brigandry, politely known as taxation. They cite the mythical land of California where they suggest increased taxation is key to a success story. This fantasy ignores almost every scrap of evidence about California’s actual economy, which is the model of progressive failure.

California is indeed a large economy. According to a Forbes article published last April, it also owns the dubious honour of holding at least $1.3 trillion in state and local government debt. That’s $1,300 billion or well over a million millions. Every year their budget must waste over $200 billion (that’s billion with a B) just to service this debt. Yet Teghtmeyer and Hanna are excited about a projected $9 billion surplus. That’s barely a rounding error on California’s total budget and as outgoing governor Jerry Brown noted it is expected that massive deficits will be following in the next few years. In short California is a high-speed train wreck.

Perhaps the increased taxes are the cure for these problems and not the cause? Well you don’t have to take my word for it. As noted in Forbes, California has the highest income tax rate in the country and rates lowest in quality of life. Californian taxpayers have been voting with their feet for years now, fleeing the state to more tax and business friendly states. Clearly California is an excellent example of the wonders of higher taxes, if you are a fan of third-world economies.

As far as the small class sizes and well-funded education systems, just ask the teachers of Los Angeles, who are striking for smaller class sizes and a raise of six per cent in each of the next two years. ❚

Brian Ross
West View School, Calgary


Golden state not a good model for Alberta

Re: Viewpoints column “Taxes are a helpful way to pay for education.”
Jan. 15, ATA News

I am not sure what to make of the title for Hanna’s and Teghtmeyer’s recent Viewpoints. While taxes may come with a different name, I am unaware of any other way to pay for education. Is there a country where public education is paid by donors?

Additionally, the example of California was troubling. While California may have a surplus of $9 billion dollars, it also has a debt that likely exceeds $1.5 trillion and possibly $2 trillion. In 2017, the state admitted to a debt of $1.3 trillion through 2015. Accurate numbers for a more recent date are unavailable.

Recently, the teachers of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) went on strike. They did manage to get a raise of six per cent. Good for them. The problem is that the LAUSD is 500 million dollars in debt. They will likely get the raise in the short-term, but at some point they will likely lose it.

I taught in Oregon for three years. For some months while I was there, teachers in California were getting paid in IOUs because the state did not have enough cash. Some banks cashed these IOUs, some did not. In 2006, teachers in Oregon were required to pay back a portion of their retirements.

Building a great education system is a great dream for Alberta, and one I fully support. And I am not opposed to an increase in taxes, but California is not a great model. Many business are leaving California for states that have lower tax rates. We must have businesses to tax or we cannot fund our public education system. To do that, we are forced to bargain with those who pay our salaries and fund our retirements. ❚

Tim Nelson
St. Augustine School, Ponoka


In support of parent choice and constitutional rights

The article, “Let’s advocate for public education with one voice” (ATA News, Dec. 11) states that the Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta (PSBAA) is “pushing for the elimination of separate and francophone school systems.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We have stated publicly on numerous occasions, in media interviews and in our print material, that constitutional rights must be respected — full stop.

The campaign called Together for Students advocates for a provincewide conversation on what a future inclusive education system could look like — one that reflects modern-day Alberta and not the Alberta of more than 100 years ago.

The current model — which was created back in 1905 when Alberta first became a province — funds six different, and often competing, school systems. Of the six, only the schools in the public system are available to every child regardless of race, social status, faith or ability. Every student is welcomed in a public school. The other systems have various mechanisms to turn away students who do not align with their core values and beliefs, yet they receive the same level of public funding as public schools. One inclusive education system would require all students to be accepted in all schools — not just some.

Your definition of public education leaves the impression that public education has three distinct and equal components. Their only similarity is that they are publicly funded, but only the public schools guarantee every student the right of unfettered access.

We agree with your statements about tuition, public revenues, governance by elected school boards and teacher professionalism. However, we disagree when it comes to the students who are accepted to attend various schools. It is not possible to state that separate schools, which adhere to a select set of values, are inclusive and universal at the same time — the two terms are mutually exclusive.

For all Alberta teachers, we envision a time when they will have the opportunity to fully engage with each other on a professional, collaborative basis for the benefit of all students. We further advocate that, in all cases where operational efficiencies are identified, they be refocused to the needs of students.

The PSBAA advocates for the principle of parent choice. It also supports human and constitutional rights as well as all prevailing laws and policies. We look to the future in the hope that the citizens of this diverse province will want to play an active role in framing an inclusive education future. ❚

Cathy Hogg
President, Public School Boards’ Association of Alberta


On the ATA’s planned election advertising


 Facebook Feedback

Gurmit Bhachu
It’s going to take all teachers. Let’s not be complacent. This will be one of the most important elections for the future of education. Tell your friends.


On Twitter

Natasha Krec @HumanistNK
Of course as a teacher I endorse this for my colleagues, but as a PARENT it is absolutely critical! I can’t imagine any parent OK with a substandard education for their kids because a politician and party don’t deem it important!

Brandon Hamilton @Brand_Ham
Because, during foundational years of education, over 80% of our K–3 classes are over capacity #IBelieveInPublicEd

Jason Ashmore @Mister_Ashmore
It’s more than just class sizes that are a concern. Education isn’t even on the radar of the upcoming election. It needs to be. We need to invest in the future and that future is a strong education for the students — the future leaders of this province and nation.

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