Alberta’s Education Minister Jeff Johnson says classroom sizes will not increase because of provincial funding but figures are still being compiled should stabilize over the coming months.
Photograph by: Larry Wong , Edmonton Journal
Despite skyrocketing student enrolment numbers and no new teacher hires on the horizon for Calgary’s public schools, Premier Alison Redford downplayed concerns Thursday of crowded classrooms and touted her government’s commitment to education.
“We know that there are communities that are making some difficult choices and there are some excellent school boards that are really ensuring that the resources that we provide to them are going directly to the classroom and the students,” Redford told reporters in Medicine Hat.
“But the bottom line is that we continue to increase funding to education both on a per student basis and overall operations.”
The premier made the comments just days after the Calgary Board of Education released new figures showing student enrolment in pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms increased by 3,957 students to 105,613 this year.
As student numbers spike, however, the number of public school teachers in Calgary hasn’t changed.
A CBE spokesperson said in an email it has 5,732 full-time equivalent teachers, which is “approximately the same number of teachers we had employed last year.”
Critics blasted the government, saying the premier has failed to live up to her election promise to provide stable funding to Alberta schools, including a pledge during the 2011 Tory leadership race to keep class sizes small.
“Everybody knows the province likes to spin one message when in reality the opposite is occurring,” said Wildrose MLA Bruce McAllister.
“Class sizes are getting bigger, we’re getting more students in the rooms, parents are becoming more and more concerned about it and the government seems to want to prioritize in all the wrong areas.”
School boards grappled with budget pressures earlier this year after the province froze per-student base grants, eliminated several additional grants, and slashed money for ESL students.
“What’s really great about the way that we fund education is that we fund on a per student basis and so we’re able to continue to support all the students that are in the system,” Redford said.
“We do continue to see strong funding for education, including a two per cent increase in the last budget through difficult times.”
But the head of the local Alberta Teachers Association pointed out that two per cent increase failed to materialize.
“Our board has said very candidly they got less money this year than they had last year and they have more students,” said Frank Bruseker. “They’ve got less money (and) they’ve got more students.
“I don’t understand whether it’s new math or I’m simply not getting it.”
Alberta’s education minister acknowledged high enrolment numbers caught the province by surprise, but he said class sizes should stabilize over the coming months.
“We shouldn’t see changes in class sizes because of the budget,” said Jeff Johnson. “I’m hoping that as we get into October (and) November that we don’t see any class sizes that are dramatically large.
“There’s always a little bit of that across the province and there’s multiple reasons for that … But you have to give school boards some time to react to that.”