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$2.7B spent in failed bid to cut Alberta classroom sizes: auditor

WATCH ABOVE: The province has spent $2.7 billion over the last 14 years in a failed attempt to reduce classroom sizes, according to Alberta's auditor general. Tom Vernon reports.

The province has spent $2.7 billion over the last 14 years in a failed attempt to reduce classroom sizes, according to Alberta’s auditor general.

Merwan Saher said in his latest report that the Education Department has not effectively overseen and directed the program.

“Albertans, and particularly parents, should be disappointed in that they have not had a full explanation of whether or not this investment of their money… made a difference,” Saher said Thursday.

READ MORE: Alberta education minister responds to teachers’ class size campaign

Originally, school boards were required to report back on what they did with the money allocated through the initiative. In 2007, the requirement was dropped after the boards told the government of the day the reporting component was burdensome to execute.

“There was really no choice but insist the information be provided or announce to the public that this initiative is now ended,” Saher said.

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In his report, Saher recommended that if the province was to continue the initiative, that it develop an action plan and improve processes to regularly monitor and report on the program’s progress. Failure to do so would see the Education ministry continue to invest money without knowing if it generating the desired results.

READ MORE: Alberta Teachers’ Association says additional 3K educators needed to reduce class sizes

For Alberta teachers, Saher’s report comes as validation for their position that class sizes are too big.

“It really echoes a number of things we’ve been saying over the years,” said Greg Jeffrey, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

“A lot of the boards are not making the targets, class sizes have been growing since 2004 [and] not shrinking, and the average [class size numbers] we find quite problematic because they obscure the actual number of classes that exceed the target.”

“We’re behind, we¬†approximate, 3,000 teachers since 2009 because student growth has been 100,000.”

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Education Minister David Eggen said the province is going to take action.

“We’re going to make it better around accountability and reporting. We know that class size is important for students, families and teachers,” he said.

“Class sizes have been growing considerably in some areas and some grades especially. Certainly this is a very clear direction we’re getting from the auditor general, and I will certainly pursue it most vigorously.”

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Saher said the percentage of school jurisdictions meeting the classroom targets has worsened.

Saher said Premier Rachel Notley’s government needs to explain to Albertans what went wrong and what it’s going to do about it.

With files from The Canadian Press.

 

LISTEN: Danielle Smith connects with the President of the ATA to chat about 2017-2018 class size numbers

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