The Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) has approved the $1.3 billion 2023-24 budget, but that doesn’t mean they like it.
Disappointment was felt around the table Friday as the trustees looked at what chair Trisha Estabrooks said is another unsatisfying budget.
“Yet again we have a budget that doesn’t truly reflect the number of kids that we’re serving and doesn’t truly provide the kind of supports that we need,” said Estabrooks.
“That this budget is happening when there’s great money in this province is inexcusable,” said EPSB trustee Jan Sawyer.
Estabrooks said though the budget increased this year, because enrolment levels went up at a higher rate, the funding allocated this year actually amounts to a cut.
“We don’t see that parallel investment in our staffing costs – simply, we don’t have the money to hire the additional staff, be it teachers or educational assistants,” she said.
Several problems could be ahead, Estabrooks said, including larger class sizes.
Estabrooks said this is because the formula used to determine funding for schools doesn’t take into account enrollment growth, instead determining budget based on a three-year student-population average.
“We need a funding model that is adequate, that is sustainable, that takes into account growing school divisions,” she said.
Estabrooks and other trustees urged parents to consider the issue when marking their ballots in the provincial election on Monday.
“I sure hope that if you haven’t voted yet that you keep (education funding) in mind on Monday,” said Sawyer.
Though Estabrooks didn’t advocate for any party, she said she encourages parents to ask candidates how they plan to “adequately fund public education in this province.”
“Which ever government gets in power after Monday, we will be doing our best to advocate and point out just how flawed (the formula) is.”
“I look forward to conversations with whoever’s in government to really work with school boards,” she said, adding the government should work with teachers and school staff to come up with a funding model that will keep pace with growing enrolment.
Before the election period started, the governing United Conservative Party (UCP) passed what it called its largest education budget ever by funding 13 new schools across the province including one K to 9 school in Edmonton. The budget also provided money to hire more than 3,000 education staff over the next three years, according to the province.
The New Democrat Party (NDP) is promising to hire 4,000 new teachers and 3,000 educational assistants and support staff if elected.
“Right now Alberta has lowest per-student funding of any province in Canada and our schools are short 2,000 teachers and 1,500 support staff,” said the NDP. “We’ll change that.”
— With files from Slav Kornik, Global News
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