Education cuts blasted

Class sizes will grow when per-pupil funding falls come September, say 19 Alberta school jurisdictions who joined together to sound the alarm on Monday.

Class sizes will grow when per-pupil funding falls come September, say 19 Alberta school jurisdictions who joined together to sound the alarm on Monday.

The growing jurisdictions from around the province predict short and long-term consequences for students as a result of the Prentice government’s 2015-16 budget, which provided no money for enrolment growth — about 12,000 students, according to provincial projections.

On Monday in a press release, Education Minister Gordon Dirks said the Progressive Conservative government’s expectation is for school boards to make full use of their combined reserves of $460 million if need be.

But educators say when budget was announced they were told they weren’t allowed to reduce teaching staff or use reserve funding.

“For the government to all of a sudden come down with an edict that says thou shalt do this as far your management goes, I think it really is a slap in the face to our local autonomy and locally elected officials,” said Bev Manning, board chair of Red Deer Public Schools.

“We are locally elected governors who have built confidence in our community to make these kinds of decisions. We have done a lot of work in our community to find out what’s important to them and to make some decisions on their behalf.”

Red Deer public’s $112-million budget will be cut by $2.7 million.

“I think teachers are going to find themselves with less supports in the classroom and larger classes.”

Manning said school districts do look for efficiencies just like the province and would rather have been consulted.

Her district was working on curriculum redesign to encourage students’ skill development, critical thinking and problem solving. Redesign requires a lot of effort on the part of many administrators and may not be possible if budgets continue to drop.

She said any party that wants to govern this province has to recognize that education is a priority for Alberta’s future.

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools runs a $90-million budget and will lose about $4 million in funding. That includes money that won’t be coming for 400 new students the division usually sees each year.

“We don’t discount the funding and support we receive both operationally and capital-wise. We achieve some terrific results in Alberta, some of the best in the world. But that classroom is becoming increasingly diverse. We’ve got kids at all ends of the spectrum, ESL (English as a second language) kids, kids that have different learning disabilities and challenges,” said Guy Pelletier, Red Deer Catholic board chair.

“It’s not going to get any easier. ESL is our fastest growing population.”

Educators say they will be forced to reduce support services to schools, and that will increase teacher workload and reduce the support for some of the most vulnerable students. These students will be further disadvantaged by increasing class sizes.

Pelletier said education is critical and impacts other costs to the province, like health care and law enforcement.

“If we get (education) right, as a society and a province, it should positively impact all the other budgets. If we make sure all students stay in school and achieve their potential, the impact is huge across the province.”

Dirks said school boards have been asked to find 2.7 per cent in administrative and non-teacher cost savings.

“I’ve been clear all along that school boards will be permitted to use their reserve funds if needed to meet frontline service needs in the coming fiscal year while they find savings in non-teacher costs — that is what this money is there for. These are school boards, not school banks,” Dirks said in an email.

Larry Jacobs, Wolf Creek Public Schools superintendent, said clarification from the province on reserves is expected in the next 24 hours.

Wolf Creek’s reserves are mostly targeted for upgrades, like technology or buses, he said.

“We have over $4 million in reserves and the vast majority of those are set aside to look after things in the future. We have very little of what they call unallocated reserves,” Jacobs said.

Meanwhile, the jurisdiction will still get about 150 to 200 new students and no funding for them, he said.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

An incredible closing ceremony capped off the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (File photo by SUSAN JUDGE/2019 Canada Winter Games)
2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy Fund Society hands out $655,000

35 not-for-profit groups across Alberta to get money

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, says COVID ICU patients have increased by more than 100 per cent in the past month. (Photo by The Government of Alberta)
Record number of people in ICU: says AHS president

The head of Alberta Health Services says hospital staff are treating more… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar, forward Liam Keeler in separate trades

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

Alexander Michael Talbot, 29, was found guilty of operating a vehicle while prohibited, flight from police and vehicle theft in Red Deer provincial court recently. (Advocate file photo)
Man charged following police chases in central Alberta last summer is sentenced

Alexander Michael Talbot sentenced to 22 months in prison

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, exile Tibetans use the Olympic Rings as a prop as they hold a street protest against the holding of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, in Dharmsala, India. Groups alleging human-rights abuses in China are calling for a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which is sure to ratchet up pressure on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors, and sports federations. A coalition of activists representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong and others, issued a statement Monday, May 17, 2021 calling for the “full boycott,” eschewing lesser measures like “diplomatic boycotts" and negotiations with the IOC or China. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia, File)
AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

Canada's Eric Lamaze riding Fine Lady 5 during the CP International competition at the Spruce Meadows Masters in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Canada's most decorated show jumper has withdrawn from consideration for the Tokyo Olympics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse questions a foul call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday, April 26, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Nurse says it was the COVID-19 outbreak in March that spiked his team's chances for a post-season run.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris O'Meara
Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Danielle Goyette speaks to reporters during a press conference in Toronto on Friday, November 10, 2017. Goyette has been named director of player development for the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and their American Hockey League affiliate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) falls on Nashville Predators center Yakov Trenin (13) during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) watches the puck get past Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) on a shot by Washington Capitals right wing Garnet Hathaway during the first period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Monday, May 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Toronto Maple Leafs former players Darryl Sittler, centre, Johnny Bower, centre right, are joined by Ted Kennedy's son Mark for a ceremonial puck drop with Montreal Canadiens' Andrei Markov, left, and Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf, right, before NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Most Read