As if closures weren't drastic enough, some huge changes are headed for Alberta's schools. On Saturday, March 28, Alberta's Minister of Education, Adriana LaGrange announced that the province is set to cut funding for the province's schools. The money saved from Alberta education cuts is instead being reallocated to support the response to COVID-19.
The official statement from the government mentioned that due to K-12 school closures that were announced on March 16, a number of positions in education are not being "utilized" at this time, especially as schools pivot to online learning methods.
The positions include transportation services, substitute teachers, and education assistants, all of which are set to lose funding temporarily as part of the new cuts.
"Any savings from these adjustments will be re-allocated to support Alberta’s COVID-19 response," the statement reads.
Funding for teachers and most other sections of the school system is still intact so that students are able to make use of at-home learning opportunities being offered by most schools at this time.
"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 Adriana LaGrange in the statement.
Global News reported that the funding reallocation will amount to about $128 million in total.
Though the statement from the Albertan government affirms that "these funding adjustments will not negatively impact Alberta’s education continuity plan," some say otherwise.
Edmonton Public School board chair Trisha Estabrooks told CBC News that supporting students requires more than just teaching staff.
She also said that students with special needs require the help of educational assistants, so they will be massively impacted as part of these cuts.
CTV News stated that the NDP opposition has spoken up about the education cuts, with one education critic describing this development as "pure cruelty."
Global News reported that the individual schools themselves have to make decisions as to which positions will be laid off.
The press statement from the government also advises the public that anyone whose job is impacted by these funding cuts will qualify for the federal government's enhanced employment insurance program.
A number of other financial measures have been put in place to support Albertans through the pandemic.
The funding is set to be restored to the schools when in-person classes resume.
The Calgary Herald stated that the Alberta Teachers' Association predicted that around 6000 substitute teachers and as many as 20,000 support staff will be impacted by these cuts. Most of these employees are set to lose their jobs by the end of April.