Students wore dirty looks and shouted their opposition on the steps of the Alberta legislature yesterday, fearing proposed budget cuts will lead to no more pencils and no more books.

“We’re here because of the $80 million that’s been cut from education this year alone and the $300 million they’re proposing to cut next year,” said Vanessa Moerike, president of the University of Alberta’s Education Students’ Association. “This is going to affect everyone provincewide.”

After kick-starting the rally with a speech, Moerike headed inside the legislature to meet with the minister of education, Dave Hancock.

The minister wasn’t talking numbers, but he did say it was time to work together to come up with a solution that will keep Alberta teachers in the classrooms.

“One of the challenges that we have is increased pension obligations and salary costs. Unless we do something differently, that’s going to translate to less people. That’s not something that anyone wants to see happen, so we have to work together to make sure we find an alternative,” Hancock said.

After her meeting with the minister, Moerike was left just as frustrated.

“I expected him to dance around the issue and he did that very well,” she said.

Moerike has set up an opportunity for more dialogue with the minister in January, but she isn't optimistic about the meeting.

“It’s not going to help,” she said. “The cuts will already be through so if we can’t discuss numbers now, when can we discuss them?”

Alberta NDP Leader Brian Mason had one suggestion for Moerike and her group of fellow protestors:

“Come back to the legislature,” he said. “Come back here and bring 10,000 of your friends and we’ll make change, real change.”
with files from Candice ward