This summer, Albertans have heard a great deal about the tussle between the provincial employee unions and the Kenney government over the deferral of pay talks. The government wants to first assess provincial finances before debating such an issue. The unions are refusing this postponement, which they say goes against the agreements reached with the previous government.
There are indications that the party that came to power on April 16 would prepare Albertans for cuts. Teachers, like other public servants, apprehend him. Fears are even stronger on the side of francophone education to balance still fragile.
"The concern in school boards is that we do not have the budget. Usually, we would have a budget at this time of the year, but we will not have it until November, "says Kevin Bell, Executive Director of the Federation of French School Boards of Alberta (FCSFA).
The uncertainty is real for these school boards, even though the number of students (which will be specified at the end of September) seems to have increased slightly.
"We are trying to work at the status quo, waiting for news. The amounts are paid, but are not adjusted according to a budget. The problem is whether we are able to do the job with the same budget as in 2018-2019. It's not entirely obvious, "he explains.
Reform pushed back
The other concern is the retreat of the current leaders of the province to implement the new kindergarten to grade 12 curriculum adopted under the NDP government.
"The curriculum problem has been going around for a very long time. We were very happy to have for the first time a curriculum developed in French, "says the director of FCSFA.
The new Minister of Education, Adriana LaGrange, announced a review of the new program by a committee that does not include a francophone representative.
"We tend to forget Francophones as a minority, not necessarily by malice, but if we are not at the table, our voice is not heard," thinks Kevin Bell who regrets that the issue of school reform was politicized during the last provincial election campaign.
It is difficult, however, for him to say that the province's initiative is forgotten or that it sends a message about the place Francophone education will have in Alberta.
The government has indicated that a vital place will be reserved for this education and that the Francophone school community will be called upon to validate the changes that will result from the work of the committee. That said, it remains to be seen whether this good faith displayed will actually materialize for the Francophone network, with its 8400 students, some 40 schools and significant infrastructure needs across the province.
Keep an eye
Of course, positive signals are not lacking. Not only does Alberta have a prime minister who speaks French, she now has a parliamentary secretariat for francophone affairs, something francophones have asked the previous government for without getting it.
In any case, CFSFA promises to keep watch, keeping up the pressure, regardless of who is in government. "The Federation of Francophone School Boards will look after its interests. We will continue to protect the right to French-language education for children, "says Kevin Bell.
We need that pressure. And while francophone school management in Alberta is celebrating its 25th anniversary, francophone families also have the opportunity to assess the relevance of this choice in which I sign up for the education of my four children. In my conversations, I sometimes met parents who had doubts about it.
To those who hesitate to send their child to Francophone school, I kept this response from the Director of CFSFA: "Me, I find that fear number one is always that the child will not learn 'English. I invite people to look at the results in English for our schools, they are superior to those in English schools. Then, I would say that being bilingual could be beneficial in terms of work, academically. I would also say that the level of bilingualism at the exit of a French-language school is much higher than that of an immersion school. "
These words resonate like music to my ears!