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Alberta provides details on education funding, worries about overcrowded schools linger

Alberta’s government is investing what it says is a record amount of money in the education system over the next three years to tackle an enrolment boom that’s swept schools across the province.

During a budget announcement Wednesday, Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said $1.2 billion will go toward addressing rising enrolment in schools across the province. 

But even with that influx of cash, educators and school officials are still cautious given concerns of overcrowding. Alberta’s population is expected to grow even more over the coming years.

Speaking at W.H. Croxford High School in Airdrie, Rocky VIew School Board chair Fiona Gilbert welcomed the investment but said more needed to be done to continue to support growing school divisions.

“This school first opened 10 years ago, a decade ago, with just 308 students. Today, it has grown to over 1,500 students with a utilization of 116 per cent,” Gilbert said.

“Rocky View schools, like other growing school jurisdictions in this province, need the space and the funding to keep pace with the increasing enrolments we are seeing.”

Nicolaides said the money would bolster the system and allow the hiring of an additional 3,100 teachers and support staff over three years.

“We’re seeing people from across Canada and around the world making the choice to move here,” Nicolaides said. “This has also meant that we are seeing more and more students register in our schools.”

He added that the money is expected to support around 33,000 students in the 2024-25 school year.

However, K-12 schools are chronically underfunded, according to the Alberta Teachers’ Association. The union has said there needs to be at least an additional 6,000 teachers to alleviate the issues the education system has. 

“What this budget does is guarantee that we will continue to be the lowest-funded province in all of public education,” said ATA president Jason Schilling.

“We also needed to see more funding to fix next year’s enrolment growth.”

According to the ATA, student enrolment has outpaced teacher staffing increases by a ratio of two to one.

According to the Calgary Board of Education’s three-year school capital plan, the district is expected to have an enrolment of 144,206 students by 2027 — an increase of 5,766 from the 2024 projection.

The government said it wants to spend $103 million over three years to set up modular classrooms to ease overcrowding in existing schools. 

In addition to the the funding detailed Wednesday, the province has also allocated $2.1 billion over three years to build and modernize Alberta schools.

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