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'Students, teachers and schools deserve better': Alberta teachers calls for education funding increase


Albertans are waiting to see how the government will manage the province's finances after a lucrative year fuelled by high energy prices.

In its mid-year forecast, the province said it expects to finish the fiscal year, which concludes at the end of March, with a surplus of $12.3 billion, despite already doling out some costly affordability measures to the tune of $2.8 billion.

Tuesday's budget will give constituents a look at how the province plans to manage Alberta's healthy coffers. The Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) hopes to see a notable bump in education funding.

On Twitter, the ATA pointed to the latest data available from Statistics Canada from 2019-20 that shows, at that time, Alberta was dead last when it comes to per-pupil school board operating expenditures.

ATA president Jason Schilling says the biggest surprise is from how much funding Alberta's education system needs to be at the same place as other provinces.

"We need $1.2 billion put into the system, just to be on average with the rest of Canada," said Schilling on Monday. "We used to be funded near the top and now we're at the bottom and our students and our classrooms are hurting because of it."

The 2022-23 budget included a 1.7 per cent boost in education spending compared to the previous year, with a significant increase in charter schools funding.

According to Statistics Canada, the previous education budget of $8.4 billion put the province in line with the same level of funding Albertans saw in 2016.

With the cost of goods and wages continually increasing, the current state of education funding in the province sparked rallies over the past year.

In a statement to CTV News, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said she looks forward to sharing more soon on the investments the provincial government is making in the education system in Budget 2023.

“We will have spent more on education this year than ever before in Alberta’s history and will continue to focus on meeting the demands of growing communities and address affordability as well as classroom complexities," she said.

"Local boards continue to determine their own class sizes and direct Alberta’s investment where it makes the most impact in the classroom.  We expect all boards to focus on the educational experience of students, and to make front-line staff and teachers a priority. Alberta school authorities also have access to more than $400 million retained in operating reserves.

"Last year, the Alberta government increased education funding by $142 million – to more than $8.4 billion for the 2022/23 fiscal year.  This investment will put more teachers and support staff in classrooms supporting students. In August 2022, school authorities projected hiring up to 800 or more teachers and principals as well as 800 or more educational assistants in the 2022/23 school year. Preliminary reporting suggests that they’ve exceeded this significantly."

While the province says resources have been added, others say some areas are being ignored.

"We're learning that some kids are kept in school, half an hour, hour or just half the day, schools simply don't have the resources they used to address special education" says Lyndon Parakin, president of Autism Alberta.

Parakin says that many kids who need some assistance with staying on track in class and communicating their learning are simple falling through the cracks because of a lack of direct support in the classroom.

"Families that are looking into schooling next year are hearing from principals that they can't promise there's even going to be a shared aid in the entire school. So 800 might sound like a big number, but maybe it's not keeping up.

"Some children just silently fail to progress and fail to thrive and eventually there becomes issues with future placement or future success and classes."

He says that current funding models now put special education funding into "inclusive education" which provides direct founding and supports only for urgent or crisis situations.

The opposition says the UCP's addition of educators doesn't make up for the cuts that began years ago. The Alberta NDP says there are 1,000 fewer teachers than there were in 2019.

"It's not just teachers, it's about other classrooms supports as well. The increases that we have seen over the last couple of years have largely come from federal stabilization money that have really allowed the UCP to paper over their cuts in education," said NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips.

The UCP's budget will be released Tuesday afternoon. Top Stories

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