The Dunderdale government’s plan to cut Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs at College of the North Atlantic is one of the many shocking surprises in the 2013 provincial budget. While students should have the right to attend a private training institution if they choose, this decision will deny individuals the right to complete their high school equivalency at a public institution and is a disservice to some of the most vulnerable Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
Government’s rationale in favour of this decision has, to date, been unclear and inconsistent — and sometime bordering on incoherent.
While government suggests that the cost of ABE at College of the North Atlantic is too expensive compared to private sector programs, the program cost estimates provided are a moving target. While Premier Kathy Dunderdale has said the ABE program costs $7,000 more at the College compared to the private sector, her minister of advanced education and skills has said the program costs $5,000 more. Meanwhile, the recently released “Business Transformation Report” prepared for the Department of Advanced Education and Skills indicates that the cost of an ABE seat at College of the North Atlantic is less than $5,000.
There are also many outstanding questions with respect to government’s claim that the annual graduation rate for ABE at private training institutions is substantively higher than at College of the North Atlantic.
For one, government is mixing apples and oranges by combining ABE Level 1 students with ABE Level 2 and Level 3 students who almost exclusively attend College of the North Atlantic rather than private institutions. There are a number of outstanding questions about these numbers that are a good cause for skepticism. For example, do these graduation rates factor in students who register for ABE programs but do not show up for day one of an ABE program (i.e., they do not attend)?
In the interest of openness
and accountability, I am calling on Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Shea to release the full details of the enrolment, graduation and funding analyses that were carried out to justify their decision to privatize the ABE program.
The premier has suggested that she has not received any compelling argument to maintain Adult Basic Education programming at College of the North Atlantic. Surely, the premier and her government must be compelled to provide a clear, consistent and coherent rationale for their decision to deny Newfoundlanders and Labradorians the choice to complete ABE at their own public college.
Dale Kirby is the MHA for St. John’s North
and the NDP education critic.