Sarah Hoffman

Alberta school boards have about $136 million less to spend this school year despite government claims education funding was maintained, according to data released by the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

All but five Alberta school boards will receive less provincial funding this school year than they did in 2018-19, according to funding information the teachers’ association received through a freedom of information request. Three school boards saw no change in their funding, and two boards received small increases.

ATA president Jason Schilling said the association requested the information after hearing stories of school cuts from across the province, which didn’t jibe with the government’s message that education funding had stayed the same.

“It’s frustrating and disappointing and it makes me angry that, once again, my colleagues in schools are being asked to do more with less,” Schilling said on Monday.

Although Alberta Education’s overall budget stayed at $8.223 billion for the province’s 2019-20 fiscal year, statements obtained by the ATA show funding to the province’s 61 public, Catholic and francophone school boards dropped by nearly $136 million, or about two per cent between last school year and this school year. During the same period, the number of students enrolled in their schools grew by 13,029, or about two per cent more kids.

The $8.2-billion education budget also includes funding for private and charter schools, debt-servicing costs, infrastructure funding, money to run the education ministry and more.


In its October provincial budget, the United Conservative Party government pledged to fund growing enrolment, but ended three grants that totalled $428 million.

The numbers obtained by the ATA show the changes, along with shifting enrolment counts, hit some boards harder than others. Greater St. Albert Catholic

Schools’ funding decreased by 5.4 per cent compared to last year, and Living Waters Catholic Schools’ funding dropped by 5.3 per cent.

Although enrolment in Edmonton Catholic Schools was up 2.9 per cent to 44,330 students this school year, the board has $10 million less to work with, the documents show.

Edmonton Public Schools’ enrolment grew by more than 3,000 students to 104,930, yet the board received $9.7 million less.

School boards across Alberta have depleted their reserves to balance the books and are looking at school calendar changes and service reductions to eliminate costs.

Schilling said school boards have cut or reduced hours for educational assistants, teachers, librarians and central office staff.

Employees have been told to avoid photocopying, teachers weren’t allowed to buy extra pencils and travel for professional development has been limited, he said.

In the absence of records, the Opposition NDP had previously estimated funding to boards had dropped by $210 million.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said on Monday Education Minister Adriana Lagrange has been dishonest when she’s implied school funding has remained the same.

“These numbers aren’t a surprise to parents who are watching their children’s classes get more crowded or watching bus rides get longer or watching educational assistants vanish from the classrooms,” Hoffman said. “It’s no surprise to the parents who have been hit with hundreds of dollars of mid-year school fees.”

In a Monday email, Lagrange’s press secretary Colin Aitchison said the overall education budget remains the same as last year.

Title ×