The Alberta Teachers’ Association says the province’s governing United Conservative Party has not been telling the truth about maintaining education funding, according to newly-released documents that show a $136-million cut this school year.
Since the provincial election, the UCP has been consistently telling people that funding to school boards is the same as it was during the previous budget.
ATA president Jason Schilling, however, said that didn’t add up with what teachers were dealing with in classrooms.
“From what we were hearing from the politicians to what we were seeing on the page and hearing from school boards and teachers didn’t match. So we wanted to see what was missing,” Schilling said.
The ATA decided to put forward a freedom of information request on exactly how much money each school board is receiving in 2019-2020, compared to the 2018-2019 school year.
In those documents, Schilling said the ATA found cuts to the tune of $136 million.
The cuts come at a time when school boards are also dealing with 13,000 additional students. The ATA said it breaks down to $441 less per student.
“Every school board in this province, except for four, has seen a cut to their funding,” Schilling said.
“It’s not anything that the UCP had campaigned on, that they were going to cut education, and so I’m terribly troubled by what this FOIP request revealed to us.”
Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange was unavailable for an interview.
In a statement, her press secretary, Colin Aitchison, wrote: “We have honoured our commitments to Albertans and maintained education funding at $8.223 billion, equal to last year’s budget, and the base instruction rate for each student remains the same.”
It went on to say: “We are actively working towards a new funding model for the 2020-21 school year which will better manage system growth, provide funding predictability and ensure funds are directed to the classroom.”
Schilling, meanwhile, said that’s not the reality in classrooms. He said he recently spoke to a teacher with 42 kids in a single math class.
“We’re seeing class sizes grow, we’ve seen cuts to supports for special needs happen. It’s significant,” he explained.
“As a teacher, you want to spend as much time as you can with each student to help them. When you have large numbers like that, it’s hard to get to each student in class and teachers are frustrated with not being able to meet the needs of all their students.”
Now, teachers are hoping families will push back and write their MLAs.
“Parents need to start holding politicians’ feet to the fire on this issue,” Schilling said.