EDMONTON - Despite last week’s announcement of $262.8 million in federal funding to help re-open Alberta schools safely, public education advocates are still ringing the alarm about conditions in Alberta’s classrooms. The 2002 Alberta Commission on Learning (ACOL) set targets for school class sizes that the province has consistently failed to meet.
“Successive governments have underfunded our classrooms for years, leading to class sizes that are far too large with too few support staff,” said Joel French, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “The problems that have come with chronic underfunding are even more serious as students head back to school in the midst of a pandemic. The Alberta government has failed to put forward any plan to address these problems and must immediately put in place both short-term and long-term measures to reduce class sizes and increase classroom supports.”
The federal funding will be of significant help to Alberta schools, but the provincial government still has yet to commit any of its own funding to address classroom conditions and ensure public school classrooms are safe for students and staff.
“The province needs to step up and keep everyone in our schools as safe as possible,” added French. “Other provinces are giving new funding to implement their COVID safety plans. For example, the Manitoba government pledged an additional $52M in new funding before the top-up from the federal government, and we’re seeing similar commitments in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario,. The Alberta government needs to do the same. This would be not only an investment in combating the pandemic and immediate public health concerns, but in the long-term health of our education system.”