Speaking to reporters following the release of the province’s first quarter economic update, Alberta’s Minister of Finance stated that there would be no new money for education. “The Department of Education has been given 3 years of funding and the department will need to work within that,” said Doug Horner.
Horner’s comment has been misconstrued by some members of the media as indicating that the government intends to freeze teacher salaries. In fact, all the minister was indicating is that the government intends to stand by the three year funding commitment announced in the 2012-13 budget.
The budget, released on February 9, 2012 provided for increases in the base instruction and class size grant rates provided to school boards of one per cent in 2012-13, and two per cent for each of the following two years. All other grants are to be increased by two per cent in each of the next three years. Additional money was provided in the budget to fund inclusive education, support student transportation, and cover the cost of constructing and renovating schools across the province.
“There is nothing new here,” said ATA President Carol Henderson responding to Horner’s comments. “As we pointed out at the time, the province’s grant funding for education will fall below projected increases in the cost of living – this is a bare bones budget and frankly there is no further room for spending reductions in education. We are satisfied that the Minister at least recognizes this and intends to maintain funding at the levels he previously announced.”
Henderson went on to point out that Horner’s statements will not have a direct or immediate impact on tripartite discussions involving the Association, government and school boards. “We knew what the government’s funding projection was going into these discussions and the minister’s comments today simply provide confirmation.” Henderson also observed that “Teacher compensation is only one element being discussed at the tripartite table; we are also talking about teacher work load, term of agreement and disputes resolution,” she said. “These discussions will continue.”
Henderson noted that the parties involved in the tripartite discussions have agreed to refrain from commenting publically on the actual content or progress of the talks themselves. They have also agreed to attempt to conclude a potential framework by October 31, which would then be subject to approval by each of the three organizations involved.