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The ‘Please Sir, may we have some more’ budget


March 15, 2022 Jonathan Teghtmeyer ATA News Editor-in-Chief


United Conservative Party cabinet ministers are pretty chuffed about the 2022 budget tabled in February. Finance Minister Travis Toews has proposed a balanced budget for just the second time in a decade, and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange is able to tout an education budget that increases operational funding for the first time in her tenure.

But Alberta’s students, parents and teachers are right to feel cautious.

The exact impacts for the next school year will become clearer after the government releases the school jurisdiction funding manual and funding projections at the end of March. But the numbers released on budget day suggest another financially challenging year for schools.

The 1.7 per cent increase in operational funding will quickly be eaten up by student population growth that will likely sit around 1.5 per cent and inflation that the budget pegs at 3.2 per cent.

School boards, like all of us, will experience a significant squeeze when it comes to quickly rising energy and fuel bills. While the government says it is offering an almost five per cent increase to transportation grant rates, this is an area where funding has already been upside down for school boards for years. We all know that gas prices right now are up by closer to 50 per cent than they are by five per cent.

In 2017/18, school boards were spending $24 million more a year on transportation costs than what they were receiving. In terms of operating and maintaining their buildings and facilities, they were spending $92 million more than they received. On average, almost $100 million more a year is spent on transportation and building operations by school boards than what is provided by the province.

Where do you think that money comes from?

Yup! You guessed it. The classroom.

At the same time, school boards are spending an average of $85 million less on instruction than what they receive each year.

This has been a long-term problem for school boards that has meant a systemic issue for students and teachers.

Even in years when the government has pledged to fully fund enrolment increases, they have failed to apply inflationary increases, or worse, cut other grants in a way that puts the squeeze on school boards. As a result, per pupil inflation-adjusted spending on public education has seen a decline of almost 15 per cent between 2013/14 and next school year.

And when school boards have increasing costs and insufficient revenue, they have few options but to constrain hiring.

Between 2018 and 2021, we lost about 850 teaching positions across the province. Since 2009, the student population has increased by about 22 per cent, while the teaching population has only increased by about 10 per cent.

I would tell you how much class sizes have grown, but the government stopped tracking that data in 2019. I wonder why.

The best data that we have shows that for every teacher (including administrators and other non-classroom teachers) we now have 17.8 students, whereas in 2009, we had 16 students. Two to three more students per teacher on average actually looks like five to 10 more students in each class at the top end of the scale. I sure don’t need to tell you that students are also receiving less in non-teacher support for their learning needs than ever before.

Teachers, parents and supporters of public education cannot be satisfied with this budget just because it finally provides an increase. We are well past due for a budget that actually addresses systemic issues in education underfunding.

It’s really unacceptable that students get cuts just because oil is at $40 a barrel, but it is even worse that they can’t get appropriate funding when the price tops $100. Students deserve better. ❚

I welcome your comments. Contact me at


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