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Edmonton Local 474 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees is calling on the Edmonton Public School District to work together with custodians to strengthen public education and address the growing concern of student safety in Edmonton in its budget brief to the board this evening.

Chief among the recommendations is a proposal to work with the Board in opposing the provincial government plan to introduce public private partnerships for new school construction.

“Hidden costs, such as debt servicing and long term cost escalators accompanied by significant loss of control over major aspects of public service delivery are just a few examples of the problems with public private partnerships,” says Doug Luellman, President of CUPE 474 which represents over 600 school custodians in Edmonton.

“An ideologically driven shift to private sector options is a very serious threat to the ability of school boards to retain effective control over decisions that are critical to ensuring quality education,” adds Luellman.

The budget brief outlines three key areas for the Board to increase efforts over the next year. The first is to build on our current priorities to support safe, secure, clean education environments. To this end CUPE recommends the development of an environmental hazards policy regarding the use of chemicals in schools to ensure the safety of students. The second area for improvement is to recognize the critical role custodians play in ensuring school safety and cleanliness. Therefore, CUPE is calling for support for worker education and giving custodians the resources they need to ensure schools are safe and well maintained. Finally, the budget brief presents solid evidence against introducing market mechanisms into the public school system.

“The provincial government is determined to paper over education under funding with the introduction of market mechanisms such as voucher funding and public private partnerships. However, these represent serious threats to public accountability, equal access to quality education and sustainability,” says Luellman. “Working together with the Board Trustees we can protect the public education system in Edmonton,” concludes Luellman.

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CUPE is Canada’s largest union with over half a million women and men who provide public services. In Alberta, CUPE’s 31,000 members work in health care, municipalities, schools, colleges, universities, libraries, emergency medical services, social services and now casinos. Visit our CUPE websites for more information www.cupe.ca and www.cupealberta.ab.ca

For further information and to obtain a copy of the brief:

Pam Beattie, CUPE Communications, (780) 484-7644 or (780) 288-1230 (cellular)

Doug Luellman, president CUPE 474 (780) 447-5858 or (780) 446-5688 (cellular)