Alberta government adds $30M in bid to ease school enrolment pressures

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Alberta government adds $30M in bid to ease school enrolment pressures
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta schools will be getting more cash in the province's bid to keep up with growing classrooms. But schools say the need is still vast. Morgan Black reports – Nov 28, 2023

The Alberta government is adding an additional $30 million in funding for the 2023-2024 school year in efforts to keep up with “unprecedented” enrolment growth.

At a news conference Tuesday, Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said the money will help schools hire more teachers, educational assistants and support staff.

“School authorities with any level of enrolment growth will now be eligible under the new formula,” he said about changes to the supplemental enrolment growth grant. “Not just those experiencing significant growth.”

School authorities will receive $1,500 per student for actual enrolment growth between zero and 100 students and growth exceeding 100 students will be funded at $2,000 per student.

The minister said the money will become available beginning in December.

Edmonton Catholic said it anticipates receiving $5.1 million , $1.9 million more than the previous method of calculation.

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Based on the previous formula, the Edmonton Public School Board anticipated receiving $6.7 million. Now it is anticipating an additional $5 million in funds, bringing its total supplement enrolment growth grant to $11.7 million.

“We are grateful for the $5 million in additional funding to help support our growing student population,” said Edmonton Public Schools board chair Julie Kusiek.

“This announcement is recognition the previous formula did not work well for Divisions like Edmonton Public Schools, which adds about 5,000 students each year,” reads Kusiek’s statement. “We look forward to seeing the impact of this change and continuing the dialogue with the provincial government about improvements to the funding formula.”

Catholic board chair Sandra Palazzo was at the news conference Tuesday. She said additional needs remain within her school district — with virtually every area being used for classroom space in many schools.

“We’re hoping for capital announcements to be announced soon and that will be able to alleviate some of the concerns we are currently experiencing.”

Palazzo said that 36 of 92 Edmonton Catholic school buildings are full or overcapacity.

For the 2023–24 school year, student enrolment at Edmonton Public Schools is 115,176. Edmonton Public said it saw an increase of more than 5,800 students over last year.

Edmonton Public Schools saw 115,176 students register for the current school year, which it said is an increase of more than 5,800 students over last year, or more than five per cent.

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The 2023 capital plan includes $372 million for 33 school projects to provide new and improved student spaces, create jobs and revitalize Alberta communities. That includes 10 new schools, 16 replacement schools and seven modernizations.

“New projects are announced in every budget cycle so Budget 2024 will be discussed and debated and hopefully passed in the spring,” Nicolaides said. “My mandate letter from [Premier Danielle Smith] says specifically we must work to significantly expand schools in our growing communities and so I will be working specifically toward that.”

The Alberta Teachers’ Association calls the additional $30 million a “drop in the bucket”.

President Jason Schilling estimates the school boards are short about $135 million this year.

“This funding is obviously welcome, but it is nowhere near enough. Alberta’s students deserve better.”

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