Voting for Calgary’s next school board has become heated and political

The city, now more than ever, needs strong leaders and decision-makers to ensure Calgary’s kids continue to get the high-quality education that Alberta is known for. Local political science expert Lori Williams says it's important to know who the trustee is that you're voting for as there are more outside influences than ever before.

By Krista Sylvester | October 6, 2021 |6:00 am

It’s never been more important to know who you’re voting for when it comes to the school board trustee elections in less than two weeks. 

This is especially true for parents concerned about the UCP’s controversial proposed curriculum, according to political scientist Lori Williams. 

The province’s revised curriculum has drawn heavy criticism since it was published, and in April the Alberta Teachers Association said 91% of teachers were against it. 

“In a sense, this is a referendum on the draft curriculum plan for kindergarten to grade six that’s been proposed by the provincial government,” Williams explains, adding 57 out of 61 school boards have declined to pilot the curriculum due to problems with it. 

“We’re talking about the quality of education in a province that has one of the best records in terms of education historically. That’s one of the strengths of Alberta. It’s one of the things that draws people here.”

It’s not just parents that should care, either

“I think for people that are interested in education, whether or not they have children in the school system, they’re interested in education. This is going to be a school board election that is going to take on a much broader provincial significance in this election than it usually does.”

This election, the school board trustee campaign has gotten a little more political, with groups from both sides of the debate weighing in, Williams says. 

“It is sometimes a place where we see a fair bit of outside influence, but that is becoming a huge advantage for political action committees (PACs), the Manning Centre, and Common Sense Calgary,” she says, adding the “other side” has groups like Ask Her YYC. 

Williams says she isn’t surprised at all to see more conservative-minded people trying to get involved on school board issues as trustees. 

Outside influences louder than ever 

A group called Take Back the CBE has put in a number of candidates, while there is also a private Facebook group for concerned parents called Albertans Reject Curriculum Draft that is very active. 

“What we (normally) tend to see is that parents or grandparents tend to be the most engaged and quite often, the candidates are teachers or parents of kids in school or even people with education specialization,” she says, adding school boards are increasingly more connected with the provincial government now. 

“I don’t doubt for a second that the Conservatives are trying to get more people on school boards to try and push this curriculum forward. If that’s something people become aware of, I think that will motivate people to be more interested in the school board elections.” 

Parents are paying attention

Kristy Tapp has four children, three of which attend school in Airdrie and one who attends public school in Calgary. She says the school board elections are normally difficult to get a read of the candidates but admits this year is different than others and she’s digging deeper than ever. 

“I think that over the last year and a half, it’s probably become more and more apparent how important it is to know the values (of who you’re voting for.) I think it’s more important than ever,” she says, adding it seems like everything is political these days. 

“As a parent, I would like to know what the candidates’ political affiliations are because it gives me some insight into what direction they would take.” 

She admits she would prefer a more progressive trustee because she believes they will put students first before ideologies. 

“I think what we saw over the past 18 months and having a pandemic is that we need really strong leaders and strong decision-makers who make the right decisions, both for our children’s education… as well as their safety and their health.”

Get to know your Calgary school board trustee candidates for your ward here

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Krista Sylvester

Reporter at Calgary Citizen

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