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Calgary Board of Education to cut 300 temporary teachers amid $32M shortfall

WATCH: Budget cuts and teacher layoffs are creating a financial fight between the Calgary Board of Education and the Alberta government. Gil Tucker reports.

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) says 300 temporary teaching positions will be cut as they grapple with a $32-million budget shortfall.

“Approximately 300 teachers on temporary contracts will receive notice verbally that their contracts will end as of Jan. 2, 2020,” Chief Superintendent of Schools Christopher Usih said in a statement.

Usih added that the affected teachers will receive their official notice on Thursday.

READ MORE: CBE announces $32M funding shortfall in wake of 2019 Alberta budget

“These teachers will be placed on the substitute teacher roster Jan. 3, and a number of them may be considered for future temporary contracts,” he added.

“This budget decision impacts many of our schools, classrooms, and students.”

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READ MORE: Calgary Board of Education lays out plans to deal with $32M funding gap

Usih said any other decisions made to help cover the budget gap will be communicated to staff, parents and students as soon as possible.

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“Continuity of learning is important, and we are working to minimize disruption to the greatest extent possible.”

The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association said the cuts will cause disruptions in the classrooms.

“[It’s going to mean] disruption in service, disruption of not having your classroom teacher. You’re going to get somebody else or are you going to get disbursed into other classes, so that shuffle in itself is going to be disruption,” Bob Cocking said.

“You’ve got report cards coming up and interviews coming up. Who’s going to do those, because it won’t be the same teacher now, right?

“There could be cuts to programs because there are not going to be teachers in place.”

Alberta’s Education minister launches a financial audit of the CBE

Amid the CBE’s announcement that 300 jobs were on the cutting block, Alberta’s Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said Wednesday she would be launching an independent financial audit of the CBE in addition to a governance review.

In a statement, LaGrange said that the “reckless misuse of taxpayer dollars” by the CBE “cannot be allowed to continue.”

“This audit and governance review will give government a path forward on helping the CBE prioritize the classroom and find efficiencies elsewhere in its operations.”

READ MORE: ‘Closing it down will have catastrophic repercussions’: Calgary’s National Sport School faces uncertain future

“I sympathize with the education professionals, students and parents affected,” LaGrange added. “Unfortunately, this is another example of this board’s inability to appropriately manage its finances and prioritize student learning in its operations.”

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“There is no reason that a board with an operating budget of $1.2 billion servicing 130,000 students should be reducing teaching positions and harming our children’s education experience.

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“I have been extremely clear that I expect all boards to minimize impacts on front-line staff and teachers, and to prioritize the educational experience of our students,” LaGrange said. “Alberta Education offered the CBE assistance in achieving this, assistance that the board refused.”

The CBE Board of Trustees said in an emailed statement it had not received official notice of the independent review, but said it welcomes “any opportunity to share how we allocate funding to support students at the CBE.

“We are committed to being fully cooperative in any review process,” the board said.

The board said it was “confident in our sound financial and governance practices,” adding that it submits the required funding information to the ministry on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis.

“We continue to receive clean audits that show our financial results are fully compliant with legislation, regulation and Canadian accounting standards.”

The board said a 2017 provincial government operational review of the CBE showed “spending was in line with those of other large school boards in the province.”