Edmonton Public Schools eliminating 250 jobs as per-student funding drops

There will be about 250 fewer staff in Edmonton Public Schools next year as the school division prepares to welcome more than 2,800 new students.

Public school board trustees approved a $1.2-billion budget Friday they say will lead to larger class sizes and fewer supports for students with disabilities and additional needs.

Board chair Trisha Estabrooks said it was frustrating to see funding fail to keep pace with growth and expenses at a time when oil revenues are flowing into provincial coffers.

“This provincial government is balancing the budget on the backs of kids in this province at a time we need investment in future generations. And that’s what makes it tough,” Estabrooks said.

Limited provincial funding and the rising costs of utilities and transportation are driving more money out of classrooms, superintendent Darrel Robertson said.

The division has planned for 138 fewer educational assistants to return to classrooms next year to help students with disabilities.

More than 200 teaching positions will also be eliminated as the school division stops offering parallel online classes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robertson said during previous years, the division had more wiggle room to hire some of those employees back in the fall once they saw which kids turned up, and where. He said most of that wiggle room is gone now.

Estabrooks said the cash crunch is the result of three years of a new provincial funding formula that punishes growing urban school divisions. Even with $57 million extra “bridge” funding to help narrow the gap, the division calculates there are more than 1,600 full-time students that are unfunded in Edmonton public, which is the province’s second-largest school division.

In an email, Katherine Stavropoulos, press secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, said the division is “extremely well funded.” She said the division received more funding than the formula had allowed for during the past two years, and has some cash in reserves.

The school division is planning to use $10 million of its savings next year, leaving about $15 million in reserves.

More to come…

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