The Alberta government has temporarily cut funding for K-12 school transportation and support staff as students transition to at-home learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The temporary funding reduction will impact the school transportation budget and services “not utilized in an at-home learning environment, such as substitute teachers and education assistants,” according to a Saturday news release issued by the Education Ministry.
The government expects to redirect $128 million to the province’s COVID-19 response as a result of the change, said Colin Aitchison, press secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
The money will come from a 14 per cent cut to the base instruction grant and a 51 per cent reduction to transportation funding for the remainder of the school year.
It’s up to the school boards to decide how many staff will be laid off, Aitchison said. Funding will be restored once in-person classes resume.
In a statement, LaGrange said the operational needs of the education system have changed in light of the outbreak.
“I want to stress this is a temporary arrangement as schools focus on at-home learning,” the statement reads.
“I have full confidence the system will continue to be equipped to successfully deliver our education continuity plan.”
The government says any staff impacted by the funding changes can apply for federal employment insurance and other benefit programs offered to Albertans.
The announcement drew swift backlash on social media from NDP Education Critic Sarah Hoffman, who said the funding decision will result in the lay off of thousands of educational support staff.
“The cruelty of this government is unbelievable,” she tweeted in response to the news.
More to come…