Edmonton Journal June 26, 2019
Edmonton Public Schools will see a jump in the number of teachers and school support staff to educate the more than 3,200 students expected to enrol next fall.
Although the board’s $1.216-billion budget, approved Tuesday, predicts a net gain of 134 teaching positions by September, 50 shortterm maintenance worker jobs will end and as many as nine other professional positions will be gone.
Uncertainty about how much funding school boards will receive in the delayed fall provincial budget has prompted Edmonton public to put off plans to invest in software, spruce up school entrances and replace carpets.
Trustee Bridget Stirling said crafting a billion-dollar budget based on best guesses from government messages feels “terribly unstable,” and keeps her up at night.
“I find myself today extremely nervous, anxious, pessimistic,” Stirling said at the board’s Tuesday meeting. “I’m very worried about what this fall could look like.”
The board agreed to pull $4.9 million out of reserves to balance its 2019-20 budget.
Almost half of its deficit is a shortfall in funding for student transportation — even though bus fees are going up by five per cent in September.
The district expects to spend about 1.4 per cent more than it budgeted in the 2018-19 school year.
The budget assumes the new government will not continue the NDP’s classroom improvement fund (CIF), which was introduced in 2017 to better working conditions for Alberta teachers.
Although the government’s commitment to fund enrolment growth would give Edmonton public an estimated $31.3 million more to work with next year, the books will take a $10.9-million hit if government does not continue the CIF.
Trustee Trisha Estabrooks said the trajectory of the CIF should be a lesson to the board that some funds come and go and cannot be relied upon.
With more kids to educate, school principals are funnelling money into teachers, meaning some workers, like mental health therapists, may not return next year.
“The reality is, with the loss of things like the classroom improvement fund, there are fewer dollars and it will impact services and supports in our schools,” Supt. Darrel Robertson said Tuesday. “There’s no sugarcoating that.”
The government delayed the provincial budget until fall, to allow a blue-ribbon panel to report back on the state of provincial government spending.
If the school district’s provincial budget assumptions are wrong, it could be in the awkward position of removing services and programs mid-year next year, Robertson said, “which is incredibly disruptive and not good for student learning.”
The budget assumes a provincial school nutrition program introduced by the NDP will continue next school year. Edmonton public receives $1.2 million yearly to help feed kids attending school in some low-income neighbourhoods.
Edmonton public’s budget documents said the district is the fastest-growing in Alberta. Planners expect the student body to grow by 3.2 per cent next year, bringing enrolment to 105,127.
The most profound growth is expected in kindergarten and PK, and junior high and high school grades.