Provincial report says $3.4B investment to reduce class sizes hasn't been effective
CALGARY — A new provincial government report looking at $3.4-billion worth of investment over the last 15 years to reduce class sizes in Alberta says the money has had little effect.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said Friday that investment hasn’t produced, with the report showing classes have only decreased by an average of 1.4 students over the last decade and a half.
The report says the money could be better spent at the discretion of local school boards.
LaGrange said a new alternative for reducing class sizes is expected to be in place for the 2020-21 school year.
In response, the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) has now created its own campaign, encouraging staff to write to their local MLA and outline their personal experience of dealing with a large class size.
For Kindergarten to Grade 3, the ATA says its ideal size is around 17 students, but some teachers are dealing with anywhere from 25 to 30.
“Each year we’re seeing anywhere from 1,500 to 1,800 additional students entering the Calgary Board of Education,” said ATA Local 38 president Bob Cocking.
“That growth keeps multiplying and with that happening there’s always going to be the need to add in more teachers all the time, so even through there’s extra funding for class sizes, it doesn’t match up with the amount of growth we’re getting.”
In fact, 80 per cent of K-3 classrooms are now above the approved target.
The ATA adds it’s even more difficult when teachers have an increasing number of special needs students and those still learning English as a second language.
“There’s a struggle there,” said Cocking.
“If you’re not a person who can’t advocate for yourself or you’re quiet or you have a learning disability, you can’t voice that and teachers are saying they don’t have time to have that relationship and give that extra support.”
Mario Vergara, with Calgary Separate Teachers Local 55, agrees that small class sizes are ideal for students to develop foundational skills at a young age.
He says kids in private schools often get that opportunity, but suggests those schools should not continue to be publicly funded so public programs can earn that funding instead.
“If people want to pay for private school then they should pay for the smaller class sizes, but why are we publicly funding private schools?” Vergara said.
“Certainly that should be under a microscope and if it’s called private education, then it should be privately funded.”
For now, the province’s school boards are still left in the dark on their funding situation for this school year.
In response to the uncertainty, the Calgary Board of Education has already cut $22 million from its school budget, which is the equivalent of 220 teaching positions.
The UCP government will outline funding for school boards in its provincial budget which will be released on Oct. 26. It maintains there will be no impact to classrooms.