Education Minister orders CBE audit following decision to cut 300 temporary teachers
CALGARY – The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has announced it will be terminating the contracts of 300 temporary teachers as of Jan. 2, 2020 and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the cuts are the result of mismanagement within the CBE.
Christoph Usih, chief superintendent of schools at the CBE, made the announcement Tuesday amid a $32-million dollar shortfall in provincial funding.
In a statement, Usih said the teachers received verbal notice and will receive the official notice Wednesday. All 300 teachers will be placed on a substitute teacher roster on Jan. 3, 2020 and some will be considered for future temporary contracts.
"We are in the midst of making several decisions to cover our budget gap, and these will be communicated to staff and parents as soon as possible," Usih’s statement read. "We recognize this is a difficult time for staff. We will continue to support positive transitions and effective teaching and learning. Continuity of learning is important, and we are working to minimize disruption."
The reductions in staff could mean some students have a different teacher midway through the year, or could be dispersed into other classes as a result.
LaGrange issued a statement Wednesday morning expressing her sympathies for the teachers who would be losing their jobs, while seizing the opportunity to chastise CBE management.
“It was difficult to hear about the decision by the Calgary Board of Education to end the contracts of 300 temporary teachers," said LaGrange "I sympathize with the education professionals, students and parents affected. Unfortunately, this is another example of this board’s inability to appropriately manage its finances and prioritize student learning in its operations.
“I have been extremely clear that I expect all boards to minimize impacts on front-line staff and teachers, and to prioritize the educational experience of our students. Alberta Education offered the Calgary Board of Education assistance in achieving this, assistance that the board refused.
“The Calgary Board of Education has a history of questionable, irresponsible decision-making when it comes to its finances. In 2010-11, the board trustees locked themselves into an expensive, 20-year lease in which they are paying more than it would cost them to purchase the building. In 2018, a provincial audit of the board found that it had made a $9.1-million accounting error, allocating office space costs as instructional costs."
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Bob Cocking, president of Calgary Public Teachers, said the impact of the elimination of 300 temporary teachers will be far-reaching.
"It's going to be a huge devastation in the education system," said Cocking. "The kids are going to be affected by it."
The CBE is also reportedly dealing with an enrolment increase of 2,400 students, which is the equivalent of four large elementary schools.
One parent said the CBE and province need to work together to solve long-standing problems but blames the late provincial budget for the cuts in the middle of the school year.
“School boards took a guess on what they should budget for. They budgeted wrongly,” said Laura Shutiak.
“I think the provincial government needs to step up and fund the level the school boards were expecting. That’s what we need to do in the short term.”
She added cutting teachers Jan. 2 could be devastating to students’ education.
“Kids losing their best resource three weeks before their diploma exam that everything their university career depends on — those things are really, really unfair to students.”
As this is a mid-year cut, the board now has to act quickly to present a balanced budget the board of trustees before January 2020. In addition to the contract cuts, bus fees and class sizes could see an increase.
The education advocacy group, Support Our Students (SOS) has now organized a rally on Nov. 30 at the Westin Calgary Airport to show its support for public education.
The latest CBE cuts coincides with the University of Calgary announcing it would eliminate 250 positions after facing challenges from the recent province budget.