File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS The NDP has been pushing Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government for weeks for an answer on whether there would be new funding.

Cash for class: Alberta promises to fund fall school enrolment growth

EDMONTON — The Alberta government is fully funding new students going into grade school classrooms this fall.

Finance Minister Travis Toews made the announcement Monday in response to Opposition questions in the house.

The NDP has been pushing the United Conservative government for weeks for an answer on whether there would be new funding.

It said school boards were being forced to plan possible budget cuts or other cost savings in anticipation of no more cash for extra students in the fall.

Toews did not say how many new students are expected or what the cost of funding them will be.

The NDP estimates there will be another 15,000 pupils in September.

“I’m pleased to confirm today that proposed enrolment growth will be fully funded for this upcoming year,” Toews told the house Monday.

“Alberta’s families and students depend on this government to ensure that a high quality of education is delivered, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

In recent weeks, Premier Jason Kenney’s government had been noncommittal on funding enrolment growth.

Kenney has promised not to cut education funding, but has said provincial finances are under heavy pressure due to multibillion-dollar budget deficits and rising debt.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said she believes the United Conservatives changed their mind because of the outrage it was hearing from parents.

“Most Alberta families were deeply concerned,” said Hoffman. “I think the pushback was probably intense, and they (the government) probably relented.”

It’s good news to hear new enrolment will be funded, Hoffman said, but she added the NDP caucus will watch to make sure money is not siphoned from somewhere else in the education budget.

Hoffman said the NDP’s 15,000 number for new students comes from departmental estimates when the party was in power.

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