The game changer may have occurred yesterday. School Board Trustees, the group long considered the entry level to elected office, are protesting in public over the Provincial Governments budget and the damage they perceive it will do to service delivery in the class room.
This is a good way to lose an election.
Like it or not, we live in a society where every kid is special, where participation is rewarded over winning and where failure is not the preferred option. So if you want to annoy parents, the simplest way to do it is to pick on their kids.
The Trustees are telling the public just that. "government you are picking on the kids" Edmonton Public and Catholic school boards will have to deal with over four thousand new enrollments this year that are unfunded. School boards in other jurisdictions are worse off.
Now four thousand kids amongst a population of well over 150,000, is not incrementally a huge increase, but it is an increase none the less and it does no good to talk statistics or percentages when every statistic has a first and last name.
The government will fire back telling the boards to fund growth with their reserves which leaves nothing for the future and aside from funding the increase teachers received in their last collective agreement negotiation there will be no new money. Your kids are going to feel the pinch.
I particularly like this move by the Trustees, even if I am not completely certain of the data behind it, because this might very well be their one and only opportunity to stand up and make some noise about the issues they are facing.
This will resonate much louder with the public than calls for increased MSI funding or more money for LRT, or even, frankly, health care, because every day the problem will come home with a tattered text book.
When one level of government, school boards, is completely dependent on another level of government for funding, the province, conflicts are inevitable but so are the consequences of biting the hand that feeds. In this case, I do think the proliferation of lawn signs that are not Tory blue might be part of the incentive behind it.
If I were cynical, I might suggest that the proliferation of orange signs and the general propensity of Trustees to lean in that direction, might make this an orchestrated political campaign move but in fairness, the boards have a genuine issue here. Ignoring growth is not a recipe for success in any circumstance.
Ignoring the voters most affected by the growth is a recipe for disaster.
So whatever the motivation, the Trustees are right, it will get voters out and it may not get voters out in a way that helps the government.
A good MLA works the schools, knowing that a fridge magnet given to a sixth grader goes straight home and onto the fridge while a fridge magnet given to an adult typically goes straight into the garbage. Care about the kids, aspiring MLA's and the parents will care about you.
This could be the election when education becomes the game changer.