The chair of the Edmonton Public School board says she and public school trustees fear that budget changes approved Tuesday, which will result in hundreds of layoffs, are the beginning of tough choices they will need to make for years to come.
“This is the first of many challenging budgets for Edmonton Public [Schools].”
The changes for next year’s budget will see more than 600 full-time school positions eliminated, including about 430 educational assistants.
Earlier this year, the provincial government announced it was making changes to how schools are funded. In the past, funding was based on enrolment numbers. At the end of each September, schools would submit their enrolment numbers which would then lead to funding changes mid-year.
In February, the government said that going forward, funding will be announced with the budget each March. The calculation will be based on a moving three-year average of enrolment.
Estabrooks said under the province’s new funding formula, the EPSB will receive funding for 105,000 students even though student enrolment is expected to reach about 107,000.
Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alberta, students in the province stopped physically attending schools in order to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The total EPSB budget after the changes were approved is about $1.19 billion.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange noted that funding for the EPSB will go up $14 million this year.
“We were looking at maintaining an $8.223-billion budget, which I have to say, is one of the best funding budgets for education across this country, and we had the input of all school divisions and the wide support of the majority of school divisions,” she said.
LaGrange made the comments at a news conference where she laid out three different scenarios for how students could return to in-person class during the 2020-21 school year.
She said she is hoping to get students back to class under as normal conditions as possible in September.
The government is expected to decide which scenario will be implemented by Aug. 1. Since soon after the pandemic hit Alberta, students have been learning online.
–With files from Global News’ Tom Vernon, Allison Bench and Breanna Karstens-Smith