Provincial budget documents show roughly 1,800 fewer full-time support staff jobs and 172 fewer teaching jobs
Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia
Edmonton’s public school chair is grateful school divisions won’t be penalized for low enrolment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and hopes that consideration carries forward through the new funding formula.
The 2021 provincial budget, released Thursday, included roughly $8.2 billion in funding for K-12 education, slightly down from last year’s $8.3 billion. Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange said in a statement on Thursday that the government has maintained funding despite lower-than-expected enrolment.
Speaking to reporters Friday morning, Trisha Estabrooks, chairwoman of the Edmonton Public School Board, said they won’t know the full impacts of the budget until later in March.
But she’s happy to see the province has been flexible with the new funding formula, brought in last year, which uses a three-year rolling enrolment count.
“We’re going to receive the full funding for our projected enrolment this year but is that same enrolment number going to continue to roll out for the next two or three years? Because those numbers are key when it comes to calculating what we receive for funding from the provincial government,” Estabrooks said.
“We have asked, and we’ve also been advocating through the Alberta School Boards Association to keep that funding enrolment number in place for subsequent years when our budget is being calculated.”
While funding remained relatively unchanged, provincial budget documents show roughly 1,800 fewer full-time support staff jobs and 172 fewer teaching jobs. The province is also spending less on public sector compensation, from $27.5 billion last year to $26.7 billion this year.
Estabrooks said at this point, she’s not sure how that change will impact wages going forward.
Photo by Larry Wong /Postmedia, file
Alberta also plans to put $228 million toward 14 additional school projects in the next three years but the budget didn’t give details, including where or when, or how many projects were for new schools and how many were renovations. It also plans to spend $139 million on modular classrooms by the end of 2024, including $89 million in 2021-22 and $40 million for support learning.
Estabrooks said she appreciates the investments the provincial is making but would like to see more details.
“The learning support funding piece, in particular, is of interest to Edmonton Public Schools because we have been pushing and advocating so hard for reinstatement to the program unit funding, which is funding that supports some of our most vulnerable and our earliest learners,” she said. “Really looking forward to what I think is sort of part two of the budget.
“The sooner we can get some certainty from the government in terms of where that $40 million is going to go, what projects are we going to be receiving, what does our bottom line look like the better.”
— With files from Lauren Boothby