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Alberta

More dollars going into classrooms to support today’s students

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Staffing projections show up to 1,600 more teachers and support staff will be hired in the upcoming school year. Alberta’s government is also providing school authorities additional funding to support higher salaries for teachers, address enrolment growth and support francophone education.

More staff in schools

School authorities are projecting up to 800 more teachers and principals will be hired in the upcoming school year. This represents an increase of 2.2 per cent from the certificated staff in the 2021/22 school year and means more teachers in the classroom supporting Alberta’s students.

Additionally, an increase of approximately 800 support staff is also expected. This includes classroom-based educational and teacher assistants and represents an increase of 3.1 per cent from the previous school year.

“I’m thrilled to see more teachers and educational assistants will be hired in the coming school year. Alberta’s school board reserve policy has played an important role in directing today’s education dollars towards today’s students.”

Adriana LaGrange, Education Minister

Funding to support higher salaries for teachers

Alberta’s government is also providing up to an additional $50 million in 2022/23 to cover recently ratified bargaining agreements with teachers. By funding these agreements, Alberta’s government is further ensuring stability for school authorities.

“ASBA appreciates that the government will provide funding for the recently ratified teacher bargaining agreements in addition to providing targeted supports for enrolment growth as school boards face rapidly increasing student populations. This funding will help offset pressures and enable boards to address operational needs while they continue to make informed decisions in support of students and their local school communities across Alberta.”

Marilyn Dennis, president, Alberta School Boards Association

“ASBOA welcomes the commitment to fund teacher collective agreements, and the additional funding to support enrolment growth and francophone education in Alberta. This announcement provides greater funding certainty for publicly funded education as we are about to start a new school year.”

François Gagnon, president, Association of School Business Officials of Alberta

Additional funding for enrolment growth

More than $7 million in additional funding will be provided to school authorities through a new enrolment growth grant. Early childhood services (ECS) operators will also receive support if they see significant enrolment increases.

The funding available through this new supplemental enrolment growth grant provides for additional student funding for authority enrolment growth above a set threshold, with higher rates for more growth.

“While the CASS Board of Directors recognizes that the current funding formula softens the impact of enrollment decline, we are pleased to see that this announcement will allow divisions to better meet their needs when addressing significant enrollment growth.”

Scott Morrison, president, College of Alberta School Superintendents

“The Association of Independent Schools & Colleges in Alberta appreciates the additional funding that is being allocated to school authorities that are seeing significant growth. The Supplemental Enrollment Grant will allow schools to better meet the needs of a growing student population, and ensure their students receive an educational experience that prepares them for future success.”

Abraham Abougouche, president, Association of Independent Schools and Colleges of Alberta 

Redesigned grant for francophone school authorities

About $5 million in additional funding will be provided to francophone school boards through an updated francophone equivalency grant. This increased investment means that in the 2022/23 school year, Alberta Education will allocate $7 million to francophone school authorities to support francophone education in Alberta.

“The Fédération des conseils scolaires francophones de l’Alberta welcomes the announcement of an adjustment to school funding to better meet the needs of francophone students in the province. We appreciate the collaborative work that has taken place over the past few months to make the challenges faced by francophone school boards heard. Their reality is unique and the response to their challenges must, by that very fact, be unique.”

Tanya Saumure, president, la Fédération des conseils scolaires francophones de l’Alberta (FCSFA)

Quick facts

  • Increased staffing levels will be supported by the use of operating reserves in the 2022/23 school year.
    • The Minister of Education recently approved 64 requests to use operating reserves for the 2022/23 school year. This included $88 million in requests for reserves to be spent on staffing, instruction and educational assistants.
  • By the end of the 2022/23 school year, maximum operating reserve amounts will be set for school boards, as described in the Funding Manual for School Authorities to ensure public dollars go to educational purposes in the same year the funding is provided.
  • The limit on allowable reserve balances was signaled to school jurisdictions with the new funding model in 2020.
  • School authorities will also receive additional funding from the province to support higher than expected fuel costs, while monthly average diesel prices exceed $1.25 per litre.

This is a news release from the Government of Alberta.

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Alberta

Alberta premier defends new rules on in-person learning, no mask mandates in schools

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By Dean Bennett and Colette Derworiz

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith is defending new rules ordering schools to provide in-person learning during the current wave of viral illnesses, saying a clear, measured response is crucial for students and parents.

“We need a normal school environment for our children, and we need to make sure that the classrooms stay open to be able to support our parents,” Smith said at a news conference in Medicine Hat on Friday.

“That’s why we made the decision that we did — to give that clear direction.”

Her comments came a day after she announced regulatory changes saying school boards must provide in-person learning. Schools also can’t require students to wear masks in school or be forced to take classes online.

The changes take effect immediately.

“Anyone is welcome to wear a mask if they feel that that is the right choice for them, but we should not be forcing parents to mask their kids, and we shouldn’t be denying education to kids who turn up without a mask,” Smith said.

She has said mask rules and toggling from online to in-person learning adversely affected the mental health, development and education of students during the COVID-19 pandemic and strained parents scrambling to make child-care arrangements when schools shut down.

That’s over, Smith said.

“We’re just not going to normalize these kind of extreme measures every single respiratory virus season,” she said.

School boards have been asking for more direction as a slew of seasonal respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, along with some COVID-19 cases, have led to high classroom absentee rates and have jammed children’s hospitals.

In Edmonton, Trisha Estabrooks, board chair for Edmonton Public Schools, said the decision provided the clarity that the board was seeking.

“All Albertans now understand that it’s not within the jurisdiction, and nor should it ever have been within the jurisdiction of individual school boards, to make decisions that belong to health officials,” said Estabrooks.

She said the province has made it clear that any future public health order would supersede the new rules.

The in-person learning change applies to grades 1-12 in all school settings, including public, separate, francophone, public charter and independent schools.

The masking change applies to those same grades and schools, but also to early childhood services.

The Opposition NDP criticized the new rules, saying it’s unrealistic to force schools to be all things to all students while also handling a wave of viral illnesses and not providing additional supports to do it.

Jason Schilling, head of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said the government needs to work with school boards to figure out how to make this work.

“You have schools that are struggling to staff the building, (they) can’t get substitute teachers, teachers are sick, they’re covering each other’s classes, principals are covering the classes,” Schilling said in an interview.

“And then to say if you go online, you are to still offer the same programming in person — we just don’t have the people to do that.”

Wing Li, communications director for public education advocacy organization, Support our Students, said it will be difficult for schools to offer hybrid learning without any additional resources.

“There are no teachers,” Li said in an interview. “Pivoting online was mostly due to staffing shortages, which is worse now three years in.”

Li said online learning is challenging for students but, when temporary and supported, can keep schools and communities safe from spreading illness.

“This is a quite aggressive use of the Education Act to enshrine an ideology,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2022

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Alberta

Don’t have a cow: Senator’s legen-dairy speech draws metaphor from bovine caper

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OTTAWA — Haven’t you herd? A dramatic tale of 20 escaped cows, nine cowboys and a drone recently unfolded in St-Sévère, Que., and it behooved a Canadian senator to milk it for all it was worth.

Prompting priceless reactions of surprise from her colleagues, Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne recounted the story of the bovine fugitives in the Senate chamber this week — and attempted to make a moo-ving point about politics.

“Honourable senators, usually, when we do tributes here, it is to recognize the achievements of our fellow citizens,” Miville-Dechêne began in French, having chosen to wear a white blouse with black spots for the occasion.

“However, today, I want to express my amused admiration for a remarkably determined herd of cows.”

On a day when senators paid tribute to a late Alberta pastor, the crash of a luxury steamer off the coast of Newfoundland in 1918 and environmental negotiators at the recent climate talks in Egypt, senators seated near Miville-Dechêne seemed udderly taken aback by the lighter fare — but there are no reports that they had beef with what she was saying.

Miville-Dechêne’s storytelling touched on the highlights of the cows’ evasion of authorities after a summer jailbreak — from their wont to jump fences like deer to a local official’s entreaty that she would not go running after cattle in a dress and high heels.

The climax of her narrative came as nine cowboys — eight on horseback, one with a drone — arrived from the western festival in nearby St-Tite, Que., north of Trois-Rivières, and nearly nabbed the vagabonds before they fled through a cornfield.

“They are still on the run, hiding in the woods by day and grazing by night,” said Miville-Dechêne, with a note of pride and perhaps a hint of fromage. 

She neglected to mention the reported costs of the twilight vandalism, which locals say has cost at least $20,000.

But Miville-Dechêne did save some of her praise for the humans in the story, congratulating the municipal general manager, Marie-Andrée Cadorette, for her “dogged determination,” and commending the would-be wranglers for stepping up when every government department and police force in Quebec said there was nothing they could do. 

“There is a political lesson in there somewhere,” said the former journalist.

Miville-Dechêne ended on what could perhaps be interpreted as a butchered metaphor about non-partisanship: “Finally, I would like to confess my unbridled admiration for these cows that have found freedom and are still out there, frolicking about. While we overcomplicate things, these cows are learning to jump fences.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 26, 2022.

Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press

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