EDMONTON – Alberta’s education system will be seeing a boost in funding compared to last year, but school boards worry it will not be enough to keep up with the growing demand.
The government will spend about $6.5 billion on Kindergarten to Grade 12 education to accommodate more than 18,000 new students this year, Finance Minster Fred Horner said.
“So Alberta’s kids will continue to have access to leading edge learning opportunities and so we can continue to strengthen the best education system in Canada,” he said as he tabled his budget Thursday.
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That amounts to about a 3.2 per cent increase in operational funding, or $217 million in additional dollars.
“That’s a huge increase by anybody’s margins nowadays,” said Education Minister Jeff Johnson. “Alberta continues to be the best-funded education system in the country, so if you boil down our dollars to a per capita or a per student basis, we rival anybody and are at the tops of the country.”
While the increase is welcome news to the Edmonton Public School Board, the board chair says she’s disappointed to hear there will be no new schools built, apart from the ones previously announced by the province.
“We need new schools,” Sarah Hoffman said. “And to hear that there isn’t any money in the budget for new schools is a big disappointment for us and for our parents.
“We’ve had 46 new neighbourhoods built in Edmonton since 2005; those families are expecting schools. And also, families living in mature parts of the city are expecting their schools to be well maintained.”
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Infrastructure isn’t the only concern for the province’s educators. The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) says the budget will do little to improve “eroded classroom conditions.”
“It will not resolve the significant class size problem that exists in schools today. The government is building new schools, but it also needs to put teachers in them,” said ATA President Mark Ramsankar.
Johnson maintains this budget is delivering on promises and announcements made by the government.
A division-by-division breakdown of the budget number’s has been posted on Alberta Education’s website.
With files from Ross Neitz, Global News.