Edmonton Public Schools is facing a $17.5 million cut this school year after the province announced it would reduce funding for K-12 education during the COVID-19 pandemic, superintendent Darrel Robertson said at Tuesday’s board meeting
The meeting comes three days after the Alberta government, in an unexpected weekend announcement, said it would cut base instruction grants and transportation funding for school divisions across the province by roughly $128 million as classes transition to at-home learning.
School leaders learned about the move on Saturday, the same day it was announced.
For the second largest school district in the province, the funding decision amounts to a $13.8 million reduction to the base instruction grant and a $3.7 million cut to transportation.
“These changes significantly impact our ability to support students, all of our students,” board chair Trisha Estabrooks said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We want to do everything we can to fight against COVID-19, but cutting jobs at this time is not the answer.”
Estabrooks has said students with special needs will be among the most impacted when educational assistants are laid off as a result of the cuts.
Unions representing educational assistants and other support staff have estimated as many as 25,000 workers across Alberta will face layoffs as a result of the reduced funding for K-12 education.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange directed school boards across the province on Saturday to immediately issue notices to educational assistants with the expectation they will be laid off by the end of April.
School boards are also being asked to immediately issue notices to non-essential support staff and bus drivers, while limiting the use of substitute teachers,
The funding changes represent a 14 per cent cut to the school district’s base instruction grant for May and June, as well as a 51 per cent reduction to transportation funding for the remainder of the school year.
The board convened by video conference on Tuesday, the first meeting since in-person classes were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.