Teachers at the Greater Edmonton Teachers Convention expressed frustration Thursday over how cuts in education funding could change the classroom.
The event brought teachers face-to-face with Education Minister Dave Hancock for the first time since the provincial budget was introduced last week.
Although education is getting an additional 4.5 per cent for operating expenses this year, most of the increase will cover a previously negotiated 4.4 per cent bump in teachers' salaries coming Sept. 1.
The province has also halved funding for the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement, or AISI. Edmonton school boards have said these cuts make teacher layoffs inevitable.
"I have 22 students that I'm responsible for right now and they are not getting what they need when it comes to the support in the classroom," Grade 5 teacher Laurie MacKinnon told Hancock at a question-and-answer session.
"And I need to know what I can do, and what you can do, sir, to give that to them."
MacKinnon told reporters afterward that her concerns are shared by her teaching colleagues.
"We feel as though we are not necessarily being as supported in the classroom as we need to be and it seems like nobody's listening because of budget cuts," she said, adding that she was "absolutely disgusted" when she heard about the cuts.
"Because we need more support, not less. And we all know what's going to happen. Who's going to suffer. It's not me. It's those children."
Teacher Peggy Wright said parents should be worried.
"I'd be worried that the class sizes would be growing larger," she said. "I'd be worried that teachers would be a little bit more stressed.
"I'd be worried that maybe my child wouldn't be able to get the attention that he or she deserves."
Hancock said he wasn't surprised by the tough questions he fielded from teachers on what he called a "difficult budget."
"There always seems to be an elephant in the room," Hancock said. "This year there's a small herd."