Public school board plans more job cuts

Calgary's public school board plans to cut another 324 full-time jobs by the fall in order to balance its budget.

Calgary's public school board plans to cut another 324 full-time jobs by the fall in order to balance its budget.

The cuts – meant to help cover a $61.7 million budget shortfall for the 2011-2012 year – are on top of the 172 support staff position cuts announced last month.

The Calgary Board of Education's trustees will get the first look at the amount of funding earmarked for schools at a meeting Tuesday night. Individual principals will learn about their school's budgets the following day, and it will be up to principals to make the job cuts.

In a press release, chief superintendent Naomi Johnson said classroom cuts are inevitable given the massive shortfall in funding from the province. Besides the cuts in both schools and among administrators, which add up to 496 full-time equivalents, the board plans to dip into $12 million in reserved funds.

Jenny Regal, the president of Calgary's public teachers association, said teachers are anxious.

"I fear for the emotional health of my colleagues, who are going to recognize really quickly that they aren't meeting the learning needs of far too many kids in their classrooms. And I fear for the morale school-wide, system-wide, as teachers band together and say 'I don't know how to do this.'"

'Staggering' number of job losses

The number of job losses is "staggering," said Larry Leach, a spokesperson for a new organization dubbed the Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Calgary Schools.

"It's glaring that there are no facts available," he said. "The trustees are going to vote on the funding for each school without seeing the full budget … I don't know if they have been given a copy of the full budget privately, but they certainly haven't made it public. So we as taxpayers and parents are left to trust that they have looked at the whole budget and cut to the bone at their head office or other administrative areas before they start cutting the teachers."

Leach said the school board and the province are releasing conflicting information, and parents don't know who to believe, which is leading to mistrust.

Education Minister Dave Hancock has said almost all of Alberta's school boards have substantial surpluses that can help them weather this period. In a letter published earlier this month in the Calgary Herald, he questioned the size of the board's budget shortfall.

"Transparency and accountability to its electors are not the CBE's strong suit," he wrote.

The school board plans to table its operating budget on May 24.