The province temporarily cut education funding across Alberta, to reflect the current at home learning situation due to the coronavirus.
In a media release sent out at 1 p.m. on a Saturday, the province announced that funding for transportation and other services not being used during the at-home learning would be reduced. This also includes substitute teachers and education assistants, the province said Saturday.
“COVID-19 has changed both how we provide student learning, and the operational needs of the education system. I want to stress that this is a temporary arrangement as schools focus on at-home learning,” said Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
“I have full confidence the system will continue to be equipped to successfully deliver our education continuity plan.”
When contacted on Saturday, a Calgary Board of Education spokeswoman said they’d just heard about the cuts today and that they needed time to analyze what it means for their organization. They wouldn’t be providing comment over the weekend.
The province said this funding would be restored when in-person classes resume.
Alberta NDP calls it ‘cruelty’
According to the Alberta NDP, this is the equivalent of a $128 million cut.
“This is pure cruelty,” said Sarah Hoffman, NDP Opposition Critic for Education.
“Jason Kenney is doing harm to students with complex needs, their families, and to tens of thousands of Alberta workers.
“What kids need right now is stability and support with their learning at home. Jason Kenney doesn’t seem to care about that.”
The province said that any staff impacted by the funding cuts would qualify for the federal government’s employment insurance program, along with other supports.
In a March 15 press conference to announced the closure of Alberta schools, Minister LaGrange indicated at that time that they would be working with school boards and that they would receive their full allotment of funding.
YOUTUBE VIDEO – start at the 19 minute mark
The province said in their release that they would be reallocating the money to Alberta’s COVID-19 response.
In a statement, the Alberta Teachers Association suggests as many as 25,000 people would be laid off as a result of the government decision. The union representing teachers estimated that 6,000 substitute teachers, “many of whom work nearly full time,” and 20,000 support staff would be impacted.
“I appreciate we are in extraordinary times, but laying off tens of thousands of workers at this time is the wrong direction,” said ATA President, Jason Schilling.