Increased Funding and Accountability Needed to Reduce Class Sizes

Release Date  2019 10 18

October 18, 2019

Underfunding in education created large class sizes, and the only way to address the issue is to increase funding, says Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling in response to the release of a government report on the Class Size Initiative.

“I’m worried that this report is a signal that the government is abandoning efforts to ensure that class sizes are returned to manageable levels. Should teachers, students and parents just accept the reality of large class sizes?”

—Jason Schilling, ATA president

The report, 2019 Class Size Initiative Review, presents very little new information about the situation with class sizes in Alberta’s schools. It confirms that 89 per cent of school jurisdictions are failing to meet Alberta’s Commission on Learning guidelines for K–3 class size and that averages are now larger than when class size funding began.

“The auditor general did a much more thorough and informed look into this issue in 2018. His report said that class size funding lacked accountability and oversight, and unfortunately this report recommends the removal of the little accountability and oversight for class sizes that currently exist.”

—Jason Schilling, ATA president

Schilling is also concerned that the education minister is using the report to suggest that funding is not needed. In the government’s press release about the report, Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange says, “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.” Schilling says class sizes have grown in recent years because school board funding has eroded in other budget areas while costs have increased.

“School boards are underfunded by about $200 million per year for special needs supports, ESL, plant operations, maintenance and transportation—these funding gaps have been managed by stuffing more kids into each classroom. This report failed to look at how other parts of the funding formula affected class sizes.”

—Jason Schilling, ATA president

Schilling says that the government should be increasing funds to cover these deficiencies while working to increase, rather than decrease, the amount of accountability and oversight dedicated to class size reductions.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association, as the professional organization of teachers, promotes and advances public education, safeguards standards of professional practice and serves as the advocate for its 46,000 members.