Nicolaides
Nicolaides
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Alberta School Boards are Cutting Hundreds of Teaching Positions Next Year, Teachers’ Association Says

Alberta is cutting teachers while class sizes are in the high 30s and student enrolments are set to grow by 26,000 next year

Over one-third of Alberta’s school divisions are cutting teachers next year even though classes are already overcrowded and enrolments are continuing to rise. 

According to newly compiled data from the Alberta Teachers’ Association, more than 250 teaching positions across the province will be eliminated next year based on budget reports released by local school divisions.

Student enrollment and class sizes will meanwhile continue to increase, with the ATA’s data indicating 26,000 additional students are expected to enroll next year compared to last year.

The biggest cut to full-time teaching positions is Red Deer Catholic Separate School Division, where 90.6 positions are slated to be cut, or roughly 16% of all teaching positions.

Jason Schilling, President of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, says Alberta will have fewer teachers and more students in the classroom.

“When you look at the budget document, Red Deer Catholic say that they’re ‘right-sizing’ their staff,” Schilling told PressProgress. “Their student enrollment is essentially flat, but for some reason they’re projecting they’re going into the school year with 90 fewer teachers.”

“This will affect class sizes, this will affect programming, this will mean more split classes. School boards need to explain what they mean when they say they’re ‘right-sizing.’”

Several other school divisions in communities with growing populations are also seeing cuts to teacher positions.

Sturgeon School Division, for example, is projected to see student enrollment increase while it cuts 43 teacher positions at the same time.

The Edmonton Public school division, which anticipates 6,000 new students next year, is only receiving four additional teachers. And the problem has only gotten worse in the last several years, according to an ATA report late last year.

In a statement to PressProgress, Alberta Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said most staffing decisions are a result of increasing or decreasing enrollment. 

“School boards have the autonomy and accountability to manage their budgets and the hiring of staff to reflect and support the local needs of their communities and students,” Nicolaides told PressProgress

“In most cases, staffing decisions are a reflection of increasing or decreasing enrolment.”

According to the ATA and public education advocates, the cuts are a result of a funding model introduced by the United Conservative government in September 2022 called the “Weighted Moving Average.” 

The “Weighted Moving Average” calculates student funding over three years using numbers from the previous year, current year and proceeding year. According to Schilling, this system fails to account for enrollment growth and complex challenges in the classroom.

“It’s starting to create a crisis,” Schilling told PressProgress. “Talking to my colleagues across the province, staff rooms are being converted into classrooms, library commons are being converted into classrooms, gymnasiums, wherever they can find space.”

The December report, based on a survey of 2,148 teachers and school leaders in Alberta, 39% reported class sizes of 30 or more, with some as high as 37. English and Mathematics saw the highest classroom numbers. Outside of the classroom setting high school physical education had the highest numbers – sometimes over 50 students.

The survey pointed to other key findings:

  • 90% of teachers reported an increase in the complexity and diversity of student needs,
  • 57% reported a decrease in supports for students with special needs
  • 89% reported feeling stressed at work, and 93% reported feelings of exhaustion

“Alberta is Calling”

Bradley LaFortune, Executive Director with Public Interest Alberta, notes the Alberta Government has launched major advertising campaigns to draw newcomers into the province.

“We’ve seen the UCP aggressively selling Alberta to the rest of the country for inward migration, with a massive advertising campaign that includes subways in Toronto saying Alberta is ‘open for business,’ and that ‘it’s more affordable here,’” LaFortune told PressProgress. “At the same time they’ve been cutting funding for education and other public services.”

“What we’re seeing is possibly a sign of the success of that campaign, and also population growth rising consistently over time, but they haven’t backstopped this with investment into public education.”

LaFortune notes that Calgary has only built one new school even though the Calgary Board of Education is expecting 9,000 new students in the next year.

“What we’re seeing is a cut as a result of a funding formula that’s inaccurate. It doesn’t address new challenges, it doesn’t address population growth. It’s a recipe for disaster. It’s pretty appalling that that’s the state of public education today,” LaFortune said.

“We need to stop investing in inaccessible private schools, fund public education, defund private education, and get back to the basics.”

 

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Stephen Magusiak
Reporter
Stephen Magusiak is PressProgress’ Alberta reporter. His reporting has a focus on public accountability, public services and privatization, and the right-wing war on environmentalists.

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