Alberta teachers' union wants 2K new teachers by fall; Eggen calls smaller class sizes 'essential'

The union representing teachers in Alberta is calling on the province to hire 2,000 more teachers by the fall as part of an effort to reduce class sizes.

Smaller class sizes were top of the agenda at weekend meeting of Alberta Teachers Association

Alberta Teachers' Association president Greg Jeffery is calling on the province to hire 2,000 more teachers by September. Education Minister David Eggen says the provincial budget has $297 million dedicated to reducing class size. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

The union representing teachers in Alberta is calling on the province to hire 2,000 more teachers by the fall as part of an effort to reduce class sizes.

"We're asking for 2,000 teachers for September," said Alberta Teachers' Association president Greg Jeffery.

"This is the number one issue for teachers in Alberta. We just completed a member survey and far and away class size was the number one issue for teachers across Alberta."

Jeffrey made the comments at the ATA's 85th annual Representative Assembly in Calgary on Saturday.

More than 425 delegates attended the event, voting on more than 155 resolutions covering curriculum, teacher education and certification, professional development, working conditions, pensions, education finance, administration of schools, political involvement, and students with special needs.

"The class size resolution has to do with a recommendation that goes back to 2003, and the Alberta Commission on Learning from the [former premier Ralph] Klein government, which set out recommended class sizes for each of the four divisions in K-12 education," said Jeffery.

"We've calculated that it would take approximately 2,000 teachers to get us back to the levels we were at in 2009, which is the closest we've ever gotten to those 2003 class size recommendations."

More than 425 delegates attended the ATA's 85th annual Representative Assembly in Calgary over the weekend. (Anis Heydari/CBC)

Finding and hiring that many teachers would be a large task, but it's one that is doable, said Jeffery.

"Things are a little bit tight but there are large graduating classes from all eight Alberta teacher preparation institutions coming out as well," he said.

"We're always optimistic, but certainly we know the government has been operating under particular financial restraints. It's good to see that the economy is recovery. Alberta is leading the country in economic recovery, far and away ahead of the rest of the provinces, so we believe this one is a possibility."

Education Minister David Eggen, a former educator himself, said he understands the need for more teachers.

"It's important to reduce class size, especially in younger grades," he said. "So we've been working hard, we have it as a strong line item in our budget and we will follow the recommendations of the Auditor General to ensure that class size money is directed to reducing class size." 

Eggen called smaller class sizes "essential."

"It's parents' expectations, it's classroom conditions for kids, for learning, classroom conditions for teachers, for managing their jobs. It's important we do tackle this," he said.

Eggen said the current provincial budget has $297 million dedicated to reducing class size.

With files from Anis Heydari