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Alberta teachers say funding model disastrous for students

Schools are scrambling to meet students needs who are unfunded, says ATA
Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling says year after year school board funding has failed to keep up with inflation and enrolment growth. (Submitted photo)

The Alberta Teachers' Association says the province's current per pupil funding model for school boards is not working. 

ATA president Jason Schilling said the weighted moving average model, which is based on how many students a jurisdiction had last year, how many they have in the current year, and how many students they project for the next year, doesn't properly address the growing student population.

"We've seen such rapid growth in student numbers in some areas that we have thousands of kids in our education system right now who have no funding attached to them whatsoever. So boards and schools and teachers are scrambling to meet those students needs when they're unfunded," Schilling said.

"(Students) need to be funded fully and completely the moment they step into that school."

It's also not serving smaller school boards who may experience declining enrolment, but less funding results in reduced programming options and classes, he added. 

"Alberta is the least funded jurisdiction in all of Canada so our government definitely needs to step up in terms of funding public education in the province. Right now they are chronically underfunding the system."

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools projected $4.2-million funding deficit for the 2023-24 school year and has said that means significant spending adjustments.

Red Deer Public Schools has also said that budgeting for 2024-25 was difficult. Cost challenges included the continuing increase in material and supply costs, inflationary pressures on utilities and insurance, the rising cost of employee benefits for a third year in a row, and more newcomer students.

The ATA warned that 13 school boards received less provincial funding than last year so schools in communities such as Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat, Okotoks, High River, St. Albert, Camrose, Two Hills, Fort MacLeod and Morinville will likely experience even larger class sizes and program cuts in the fall.

Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said some schools saw very small reductions due primarily to declining enrolment in those communities and lower COVID related funding.

"That being said, funding to education in Alberta is at record high levels, which will result in thousands of new teachers and dozens of new schools. This will support the record number of families moving to the province to be apart of the Alberta Advantage," said Nicolaides, in a statement. 

"Last year alone, our population grew by 200,000 which represents the largest annual increase in Alberta history. Albertans elected our conservative government to invest in the success of the education system."

Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
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