Province of Alberta cutting funding meant to reduce class sizes

Oct 22 2019, 1:37 pm

The Province of Alberta is looking to scrap an initiative aimed at reducing class sizes in the province, citing that it is no longer effective.

The government has decided to withdraw funding from the Class Size Initiative after a Ministry of Education report shows that efforts to reduce school class sizes – especially from kindergarten to Grade 3 – did not deliver results.

According to the report, over $3.4 billion has been allocated to school jurisdictions to reduce class sizes over the 15 years the initiative was meant to be in place.

“Albertans elected us with a clear mandate to conduct an audit of class sizes and determine what happened to previous funding dedicated to class size reduction,” says Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education.

“This report demonstrates that we cannot continue to throw money at this problem, rather that we must look for new solutions while continuing to appropriately fund education,”

According to a release, the Ministry of Education says it will instead use the funding to support other aspects of student education, and that “these dollars should be included with base instruction funding so that jurisdictions have flexibility to use funds to best support their unique needs.”

Public Interest Alberta, a not-for-profit, advocacy group operating in the province, is questioning the basis of the decision, saying that the analysis came to the wrong conclusion.

“The government’s conclusions are completely wrong based on their own analysis,” said Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta.

“The problem was not that funding could not make a difference. It was that the government decided three years into the program to remove reporting requirements for where the funding was spent. Once the accountability from school boards for the funding was removed, it was sometimes no longer used for that purpose, but appears to have been used to address other serious challenges in the classroom related to children with complex needs.”

French says that funding needs to be directed to adequately address both of these challenges impacting students in Alberta, “as Alberta’s student population continues to grow and students’ needs are more complex than ever before.”

According to the government of Alberta release, “the province is working with education stakeholders to review the funding and assurance model for the education system, which will include an examination of the effectiveness of targeted grants such as the Class Size Initiative.”

A new funding model is expected to be in place for the 2020-21 school year.