The provincial government is temporarily cutting kindergarten to Grade 12 education funding.
With in-school classes cancelled indefinitely, funding is being temporarily adjusted to reflect the cost of at-home learning by students during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced Saturday.
“COVID-19 has changed both how we provide student learning, and the operational needs of the education system,” said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
“I want to stress that this is a temporary arrangement as schools focus on at-home learning. I have full confidence the system will continue to be equipped to successfully deliver our education continuity plan.”
While funding for teachers and other aspects of the K-12 system is being maintained, funding for transportation and some services not being utilized in an at-home learning environment, such as substitute teachers and educational assistants, is being scaled back.
This funding will be restored when in-person classes resume, said LaGrange.
Any savings from these adjustments will be re-allocated to support Alberta’s COVID-19 response, says the government.
Any staff impacted by these funding adjustments will qualify for the federal government’s enhanced employment insurance program and other support programs for Canadian workers.
In a press release, Alberta’s official NDP opposition says at last count, there were more than 16,000 educational assistants supporting students with complex needs across Alberta.
“This wave of K-12 layoffs come days after Kenney also proceeded with thousands of layoffs in the post-secondary system. These jobs losses will do even more damage to Alberta’s reeling economy and put even more stress on working families struggling through the coronavirus pandemic,” the release said.
Sarah Hoffman, NDP critic for education, says Premier Jason Kenney is pushing thousands onto a “massively overwhelmed” federal unemployment insurance program.
“He is deliberately creating new suffering and misery for tens of thousands of families already under extreme mental health pressures,” said Hoffman.
The Alberta government says these funding adjustments will not negatively impact Alberta’s education continuity plan. School authorities will receive the funding they require to continue providing at-home learning opportunities to their students, ensuring they do not fall behind.