ATA warns of funding cuts, layoffs at some school districts

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The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) says seven school districts will lose more than half a million dollars in funding next year which could prompt teacher layoffs, though the province says those changes are largely due to declining enrolment.

The ATA referenced school jurisdiction funding profiles published by the province earlier this month as evidence of what it characterizes as cutbacks.

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ATA president Jason Schilling said the shortfall will lead to program reductions, teacher layoffs, and larger class sizes.

“There is no excuse in our growing, wealthy province to have funding cuts for public education,” he said.

“Year after year after year, school board funding has failed to keep up with inflation and enrolment growth and as a result, we now have the lowest per-pupil spending on education in all of Canada.”

He said there are 3,000 fewer teacher positions relative to where service levels were five years ago.

According to figures provided by the ATA, here are the seven school boards that stand to lose more than $500,000 in funding:

  • The Medicine Hat School Division – $1,045,675
  • The Northland School Division – $761,115
  • The Aspen View School Division – $646,458
  • The Battle River School Division – $546,236
  • The Foothills School Division – $521,043
  • The Living Waters Catholic Separate School Division – $504,056
  • The Sturgeon County School Division – $500,310

Six other school boards will also see smaller funding drops, the ATA claims.

In an interview with Postmedia, Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said those changes are chiefly a result of fewer students in those districts.

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“There’s been some minor adjustments to funding to a small number of school divisions, largely attributed to school divisions experiencing declining enrolment,” he said.

He said other changes including to a grant to account for socio-economic differences as well as the end of COVID-related funding were also factors.

Nicolaides added he had not heard about coming layoffs from any specific school division.

The ATA says it doesn’t have access to precise enrolment figures but projects the funding the divisions would get based on population growth in those areas.

The education ministry did not provide enrolment figures to Postmedia.

Funding is determined in part through a three-year, weighted moving average, a formula that Nicolaides said provides stability and flexibility for smaller school divisions.

“The weighted moving average, helps to kind of ease ease those reductions if they are seeing enrolment decline.”

Schilling disputed that, saying the formula had been “disastrous” for education funding.

“We’ve had years of rapid enrolment growth and insufficient funding,” he said.

“As a result of underfunding, class sizes have grown, programs have been cut and supports for students continue to erode.”

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