Teachers and boards 'thrilled' with education funding announcement
Rachel Notley's government reverses cuts laid out in Prentice's provincial budget
It's no small number, and it's no small wonder that school boards and teachers in Alberta are pleased with the announcement that the province will restore $103 million in education funding axed by the Jim Prentice government.
"Honest reaction, just absolutely thrilled" said Debbie Engel, the chair of Edmonton's Catholic school board. "It is amazing how they listened and this is a great day for Edmonton Catholic schools, all funding levels have been restored."
In Calgary, Frank Bruseker, president of the Calgary Public Teachers, Local 38, called Thursday's announcement a "great relief," while Alexandra Jurisic, president of the Calgary Catholic Teachers' Association, said the change over the last two months has been "giddy."
The Calgary public system will see an increase of about $44 million over estimated operational funding for 2014-15 — a rise of 4.3 per cent — and the Catholic system is expected to receive an additional $21 million, or 4.5 per cent.
Edmonton's two boards will see an extra $15 million, or 4.1 per cent, for the Catholic system and $37 million, or 4.4 per cent, for the public district.
"We're very excited here at the Calgary Board of Education," said board chair Joy Bowen-Eyre. "It gives us the opportunity for our school system to be stable and it gives us the opportunity to run things the way that we had hoped to for next year."
During the provincial election campaign, six board chairs, representing 19 boards, banded together to oppose cuts proposed in the Prentice budget, taking a public stand just two weeks before the May 5 vote.
"We became politically active in telling the story, somebody please listen," said Engels about the unified front.
"At that time we had no idea what the government may look like three weeks down the road, but we wanted to tell our story and we wanted people to be aware of what we were facing. So we told our story and somebody listened."
The Prentice budget imposed cuts to education funding and no new money for an anticipated 1.9 per cent growth in new students across the province.
"I think clearly the message that the government is sending with this increased funding for the Calgary Board of Education is that class sizes won't grow," said Bruseker, who worried about swollen classes and a lack of assistants for special needs students and in English language training.
During the press conference announcing the education funding, Notley said all schools will benefit from the new funds, including private and charter schools, but she said the issue of whether these schools should have access to public funds is on her government's radar.
"The vague answers around funding for private and independent schools leaves Alberta's parents uncertain about the future of their children's education options," said interim PC leader Ric McIver in a press release.
"Our caucus will remain as staunch defenders of parental choice in how they educate their children and of funding to support that choice."
The Wildrose opposition called on Education Minister David Eggen to make clear where the money will come from and focus on issues "like finally proclaiming the Education Act, improving declining outcomes for students, moving away from untested instruction methods and building the classroom space our students need."
Across the province there are only two reductions in anticipated funding: Mother Earth's Children's Charter School Society — which will lose $5,000 of its $566,000 in funding — and the Pembina Hills Regional Divison No. 7, northwest of Edmonton, which will see a decrease of $1.1 million, or 2.3 per cent.