Alberta education minister insists his government is tackling crowded classrooms

Reducing class size is a priority for the Alberta government, according to Education Minister David Eggen. Getty Images / File

Alberta’s education minister says progress is being made across the province to reduce class sizes.

David Eggen spoke with 630CHED’s Ryan Jespersen about the reduction in Alberta’s classroom sizes despite public perception – and despite an auditor general’s report that was not kind to the provincial government.

In February, the report cited the province’s lack of a plan to achieve class size goals, despite around $2.7 billion being invested in the initiative over the last 14 years.

Eggen insisted that while progress may seem slow, it’s been steady.

“We have hired teachers, I built a budget for enrollment the last four budgets,” he said.

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“We’ve probably hired 3,600 teacher positions and support staff. So we’re starting in the right direction.”

The minister did express an understanding of the public perception in light of the auditor general’s report. But he added that the New Democrats have built strong education budgets over the last four years – including the Classroom Improvement Fund implemented in the previous two years.

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“Ninety-seven per cent of the money that passes over my desk goes straight to school boards,” Eggen said. “So perhaps we have to have greater transparency around how money is being spent in the classroom to make demonstrable reductions in class sizes.”

Listen Below: Alberta Education Minister David Eggen on the Ryan Jespersen Show

One move Eggen cited as an example of change was the cut to superintendent salaries after it came to light that they were extremely high and included perks. He laid out his plan to use their funds more effectively.

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“To reduce class size you need two things,” he explained. “You need to have teachers and support staff, and you need to have physical classrooms. I’m building the classrooms.

“We have the biggest classroom build in Alberta history – 194 projects on the go right now.”

Eggen also took a swing at the opposition, as well as the previous government. According to the minister, UCP leader Jason Kenney’s plans to make budget cuts would be “disastrous” to Alberta’s education system.

“We made sacrifices in other areas in our government to make sure we spent on education,” Eggen said. And if anybody thinks there’s some magic alchemy where Jason Kenney can make massive cuts and balance the budget on the backs of children, they’ve got another thing coming.”

The current budget dedicated to reducing class size sits at around $297 million, according to Eggen.

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