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Calgary Board of Education said funding for class sizes ‘useful’

The Calgary Board of Education said there’s potential for concern after the Alberta Government announced they would be looking at different ways to use money aimed at reducing class sizes.

A new provincial government report showed more than $3.4 billion spent over the last 15 years hasn’t reduced school class sizes.

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The Class Size Initiative began in 2003 under the former Progressive Conservative government. It directed money to schools for reducing class sizes. Despite that investment, kindergarten to Grade 3 classes have only decreased by an average of 1.4 students since 2003-04. 

Alberta’s Education Minister, Adriana LaGrange said they have to look at more effective ways of spending the money.

“As I make funding decisions, I will be looking through the lens of what is best for our students and what will be most effective in improving student learning. We owe it to parents and children to get better outcomes for the money that’s being spent on education,” she said.

The report also said schools generally view the class size funding model as ineffective. Instead, schools recommend the money be included with base instruction so they have the flexibility to use funds depending on their needs. 

LaGrange said the province is now working with education stakeholders to review the funding and assurance model. A new funding model is expected to be in place for the 2020-21 school year.

Funding has been useful: Calgary Board of Education

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE), however, said the funding has been useful in maintaining reasonable class sizes.  

“We allocate 100 per cent of our Class Size Initiative money to our K-three class sizes. If you were to compare our K-three class sizes to the other metros in the province, we have the smallest K-three class sizes,” said Marilyn Dennis, CBE Board Chair.

“Using those targeted funds, and the way they were intended, has been a benefit to Calgary students.”

What the class size averages don’t take into account, according to Dennis, are educational assistants that reduce the student-teacher ratio.

“The learning environment is impacted not only by the number of students in the classroom, but also by the complexity of the classroom. The skills of the educator in front of those students. So, the class size conversation is an important one. But it’s not just about the number.”

Dennis said the concern now is the idea of rolling funding into per-student grants. Although that would offer greater flexibility in using those funds, the funding could be reduced. She added that the release of next week’s provincial budget might shed some light on that funding.

Meanwhile, the union representing teachers in the province took to twitter to express their thoughts on class sizes in Alberta.

A graphic created by the ATA shows smaller class sizes allows for higher student engagement. That provides more opportunities for teachers to focus on individual students.