The new UCP government was elected in mid-April on promises to maintain or increase Education funding, but until this week, would not say if that included funding for student population growth or not.
In the time until Minister Toews answered Sarah Hoffmann in the legislature, on the tenth time she asked, that the UCP would in fact fund for student growth, school boards across the province had been detailing cuts that would be needed - $40 million shortfall for the Calgary Board of Education, teachers who would not have jobs, aides that would be cut, classrooms that would be overcrowded, band classes that would no longer happen – and the reality is that even yet, with his vague statement in question period that schools would be funded for growth, boards across the province are still not sure what exactly that means.
RVS anticipates 600+ new kids entering the local schools this fall, which, if funded at the same rate as under Notley’s government, represents a need for funding in the range of $3 million to support teachers, and appropriate class sizes, and while RVS is proceeding under the assumption the UCP will provide at that same rate, the Calgary Board announced today, that it will need to proceed with cuts it had previously announced, as they aren’t able to be sure what funding they will receive, and even with growth funding, it only accounts for about half of their funding shortfall.
When I talked about the needs of RVS with a local Trustee, it was clear that funding for growth was only half of the immediate funding issues faced here as well. The Board expects to lose the $2.7 million Notley’s NDP previously provided to principals under the Classroom Improvement Fund program that would have gone to supporting aides, staff and the needs of the classroom. Due to this shortfall RVS, and our kids will be losing out on 50+ staff that would enhance the learning experience in the classroom.
Further, with Airdrie and Cochrane being two of the fastest growing communities in Alberta, RVS faces a need for 1 new school in Airdrie each year, and one every two years for the rest of the division. Today, only two are likely to be completed, regardless of funding changes. The UCP desire to pursue P3 schools, and the higher costs associated with them is of particular concern for the future of new schools in RVS and the ability to support them.
The Board needs to have their budget submitted by the end of June, and still don’t know the funding they will be working with. Peter Guthrie, Jason Kenney, and the UCP need to step up and provide that information to schools now, not with the fall provincial budget, so they don’t incur unexpected overruns in the fall, and so that parents can know, with certainty, what programs and new schools are going to be cut for their children.