EDMONTON - The Alberta government has released the results of its audit of the Class Size Initiative, which gave provincial funding to school boards to reduce the number of children per classroom. The government’s conclusion from the report is that it “cannot continue to throw money at this problem.”
“The government's conclusions are completely wrong based on their own analysis,” said Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “The problem was not that funding could not make a difference. It was that the government decided three years into the program to remove reporting requirements for where the funding was spent. Once the accountability from school boards for the funding was removed, it was sometimes no longer used for that purpose, but appears to have been used to address other serious challenges in the classroom related to children with complex needs.”
French highlighted the need to address both challenges at the same time.
“It is well-known that both small class sizes and robust supports for children with complex needs are necessary to develop the full potential of every child,” continued French. “The provincial government needs to provide sufficient funding to address both of these challenges, as Alberta’s student population continues to grow and students’ needs are more complex than ever before.”
The government’s report states that “reducing class size is most effective” for Kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms, citing research that highlights large gains to be made in those grades when class sizes are reduced to fewer than 15 students, which is even smaller than the Alberta Commission on Learning’s recommendation of a class size of 17.
“Research cited in the report clearly confirms the importance of small class sizes, particularly for Kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms, so we must find solutions” said French. “There are no mysteries on how to reduce class sizes. More classrooms staffed with teachers and support staff are the only way it can be accomplished, and whether the government likes it or not, those things cost money. The government must immediately commit to provide school boards with funding to meet the province’s class size targets, along with public reporting measures to ensure maximum accountability for the funds.”