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Education minister puts kibosh on Edmonton Catholic’s childcare space plan

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Author: 
Mertz, Emily
Publication Date: 
23 Jan 2015
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Alberta's education minister has told the Edmonton Catholic School District it cannot use certain funds to pay for portables that could be used for daycare or after-school care.

The school board previously voted to spend its own money and build eight modulars for out-of-school care at four of its new schools slated for construction, but that move had to be approved by the province.

"The board made a motion based on a recommendation from our administration that we use $3.6 million from the future sale of a building to build portables to house daycares in the new schools," explained Debbie Engel, a board chair. "We would pay the money back to our own capital fund reserve through daycare premiums."

The district had planned to install the modulars at Bishop David Motiuk School, Father Michael Mireau School, St. John XXIII School and the St. Brendan Replacement School.

However, the education minister has ruled against the plan.

"Funding for childcare facilities is outside the mandate of Education and school authorities," said Tamara Magnan, Alberta Education's director of communications.

"Education grants are provided to school authorities for the purposes of providing education to children in grades K-12.
"Thus, Alberta Education does not allow school jurisdictions to use these funds to offer childcare services."

However, Engel argues the district wasn't going to use education grant money to pay for the childcare portables.

"Education grants I can see because education grants are for the education of students.

"We were looking to use money from capital funds, which is building and infrastructure money, usually that's what you use it for."

Engel said the board has struck a committee to look at the need for daycare and after-school care - close to or part of schools - and whose job it is to meet that need.

"I agree... you do have to draw a line somewhere, but whose role is it to look after the convenience of the families with daycares? We continually hear about daycare shortages. I have parents calling me all the time saying, ‘can I drop my child off a half-an-hour before school starts?'"

"It's one of those things that is an issue. Whose mandate it is, I don't know.
"Our mandate is to make sure every child receives the best possible education - and educational environment - to reach their full potential and sometimes I think that means taking care of the family needs as well," said Engel.

"For me, as a parent, it's very important."
She hopes the Catholic School Board will be given the OK to spend the money on the proposed childcare spaces.

"It's very important for them to have a facility like that, as well for the parents, because the parents are looking for space for the children when they finish their school."

Engel said the committee will hear from parents and also look across different government ministries, like Human Services, to see where the responsibility lies and what solutions could help families.

"They're Albertans, they're taxpayers," she said. "That's what they're looking for. Whose mandate is it? I'm hoping through the ad-hock committee we'll find the answers."

 

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Entered Date: 
27 Jan 2015
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