The Alberta Teachers’ Association is troubled that increases in school staffing promised by Alberta Education will largely be financed by school boards’ internal reserves rather than new funding from the province.
On Wednesday, the province announced up to 800 more teachers and principals, and about 800 more support staff, will be hired in the upcoming school year according to staffing projections.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange recently approved 64 requests to use operating reserves for the 2022-23 school year which included $88 million in requests for reserves to be spent on staffing, instruction and educational assistants.
ATA president Jason Schilling said using reserves is a short-term approach that does little to address the structural deficiencies in funding that have led to large and growing class sizes and inadequate support for student learning.
“While the spending to restore positions that were lost during the pandemic is welcome news, drawing down school board savings to accomplish this is a temporary stop-gap approach and is not available to every board. It simply cannot be sustained over the long term,” said Schilling said in a statement.
“The greater challenge for the province’s school boards will be finding the dollars they need to respond to the general cost increases that are affecting all of us.”
The province said by the end of the 2022/23 school year, maximum operating reserve amounts will be set for school boards to ensure public dollars go to educational purposes in the same year the funding is provided.
“I’m thrilled to see more teachers and educational assistants will be hired in the coming school year. Alberta’s school board reserve policy has played an important role in directing today’s education dollars towards today’s students,” said LaGrange in a statement.
The limit on allowable reserve balances was signaled to school jurisdictions with the new funding model in 2020.
The province also announced additional funding to school authorities to support higher salaries for teachers, address enrolment growth and support francophone education.
But ATA said the modest increase to teacher salaries, determined through a mediation process in the spring, still sits well below the level of inflation that was running at 7.4 per cent in Alberta in July alone. After six consecutive years of zero increases and a 0.5 per cent increase in 2022, teacher salaries will eventually rise by a total of 3.75 per cent by September 2023.