Alberta Budget 2015 Implications

The dire consequences of government underfunding...

Editorial by D Nelles
Associate Executive Assistant
-March 30, 2015

With the release of the provincial budget on March 26, the Premier has sent a clear message to parents: your students are not the priority of this government.

While funding for education hasn't declined in a dollar-for-dollar comparison, a "hold-the-line" budget is, effectively, a cut.

With burgeoning class sizes already the norm in the Calgary Board of Education, and enrolment on the rise, what can parents and teachers expect to see with the budget being forwarded? Let's take a closer look at the numbers. 

Per student funding has been in decline since 2012.  Last week's budget detail from Alberta Education indicates that CBE's total funding will increase by just 1.1%.  This is insufficient to even cover expected increases in expenses, let alone deal with enrolment increases.

Figure 1 - Source: CBE Issues | Funding for Our Students
The "do more with less" mantra that successive PC governments have touted as they slash funding from students' futures is simply not sustainable.  Teacher workload is at an all-time high (see Transformation and a Culture of Trust & The New Work of Teaching).  It is simply not possible to add more workload to teachers without taking something away.  

Parents and teachers both see the value in personalizing learning and providing every student with individualized attention.  A decrease in per student funding, particularly one of this magnitude, decreases the ability of teachers, schools, and school boards to meet these needs, and their ability to provide personalization.

Figure 2 - Source: CBE 2014 School Enrolment Report

Teachers have been raising the alarm about ballooning class sizes for some time. The implications of last week's budget are dire: not only will we not be able to hire any new teachers to cover the thousands of new students next year, but the CBE may actually be forced to eliminate teaching positions to cover the funding gap.

The Operational Funding data sheet notes that the total increase to the CBE for the next school year is $11 million.  With 2000-3000 additional students projected, inflation on the rise, and Board estimates that teacher salary increases alone will cost more than $12 million, the CBE is faced with a major decrease in funding from government, and being asked to provide the same services as previous years.

This is simply not possible.  

The result is that the CBE will be faced with cutting programming and teaching positions, increasing class sizes once again, and closing or reducing programs for our neediest students to make up for the funding cuts.

This represents a failure on the part of government to act in the best interests of Alberta's children.

The system is already stretched to the limit.  Teachers, schools, and school boards, simply cannot "do more with less" any longer.  How many children need to fall through the cracks before this government realizes that chronic underfunding of education hurts this province's future?