News Views

$231M increase not enough, educators say

"Most critics and education officials were unimpressed by the $231-millon funding increase for kindergarten to Grade 12 classes announced in Tuesday's budget. While some called it a step in the right direction, others denounced it as a guarantee teachers will be laid off and programs slashed around the province." Michele Mulder, president of the Alberta School Boards Association, said there was more money for boards than she expected. But the gap between the six per cent Alberta Learning provided boards to cover teacher salary increases and the 14-per-cent increase teachers were awarded is causing major pressure points, she warned. 'Does this cover the gap? That remains to be seen. Can we keep our students on the leading edge? I don't think so.'"

—Tom Barrett, Edmonton Journal, April 9, 2003

Board frustrated over lack of funding

"The Livingstone Range School Division (LRSD) board of trustees is frustrated by the lack of funding from the Province." 'The end of June creates some pretty significant problems,' said Trustee Bev Everts. The board has some reserves but once those are gone more funding will be required. 'We need the dollars to pay for the settlement,' said Kelly Hall, chairman of the board.

—Rob Vogt, Claresholm Local Press, April 2, 2003

Budget disappoints trustees, teachers

"Tuesday [April 8, 2003] was, at worst, a bad day for public education; at best, a disappointing one, say trustees and teacher. Gary Bartlett, chairman of the Lethbridge public school board, said he is 'very disappointed' with the budget. 'Realistically, this is what we thought we were getting but we had hoped to get more,' he said. 'Our costs are increasing by 3.2 per cent without any salary increases.' The district is facing a $1.6-million shortfall and has delivered a draft budget which calls for a reduction of 6.5 full-time equivalent teachers the Catholic board—facing a $2.1-million deficit—has not released a draft budget and isn't expecting to do so until late May or early June, [Chris Spearman, chairman of the Holy Spirit school board] said."

—Janine Ecklund, Lethbridge Herald, April 9, 2003

CBE eyes $32M shortfall

"The Calgary public school board painted a bleak financial picture for next year as trustees announced [April 15, 2003] that they need $32 million to balance the books. Board chairman Gordon Dirks would not use the word 'layoffs.' However, he said that after the board analysed the 3.4 per cent increase it received from the province in last week's budget, the CBE's finances aren't looking much rosier than the $35-million shortfall it predicted a month ago."

—Shelley Knapp, Calgary Herald, April 16, 2003

Kids-in-the-hall situation rankles Hinton

"The only Catholic school in Hinton, which offers kindergarten to Grade 12, is so full that classes stagger their bathroom time, students seek their counsellor in the boiler room and high-school students attend classes in the recreation centre while hockey teams shout next door. 'What a gong show!' said Catholic teacher Sheldon Bossert about Hinton's schools. 'It just seems as though the government has no clue what is happening in education'."

—Jodie Sinnema, Edmonton Journal, April 7, 2003

New funds not in cards

"An hour-long meeting with Learning Minister Lyle Oberg failed to soothe Catholic School Board fears it will face a monumental budget shortfall. 'The fiscal situation hasn't changed one jot,' said Lois Burke-Gaffney, the separate board chair. 'We are still having to look at between a six-and-seven-million-dollar cut. We are still facing at the moment a nine-to ten-million-dollar deficit budget.' The Calgary Catholic School District has said without ample provincial funding, it could be forced to cut more than 100 teaching positions."

—Nadia Moharib and Ian Wilson, Calgary Sun, April 11, 2003

Rising above a sea of red

"For the 2002-03 school year, the teachers' raise had the [Calgary Board of Education] initially projecting an $18-million deficit, and the province ponied up a one time $7-million grant. But through administrative economies, deferred maintenance and pushing teachers' classroom time from 23 to 23.5 hours weekly, against all odds, the board achieved a balanced budget. Next year, the pay raise is fully phased in, and the board will get a two per cent revenue boost from the province. Hence the deficit. First, although the CBE must provide English as a second language and special needs classes, Alberta Learning's per-student grants don't come close to covering the costs. CBE chairman Gordon Dirks estimates these programs run $50 million in the hole. Second, last summer's arbitrated settlement removed the 23-hour cap on teachers' classroom hours (out of 30 'assignable hours'). But the province mandates that students be in the classroom for 25 hours. The result is the need for an additional 250-300 teachers. Third, underutilization is expensive and the system runs at only 75 per cent of capacity. The CBE is to be congratulated for the efforts it has already made. But it should assume that it must do a yet better job with no greater resources."

—editorial, Calgary Herald, April 5, 2003

School conundrum

"Expect larger classes and program cuts in Edmonton's public schools next year despite a government audit that suggested otherwise, says school board chairman Don Fleming. It will be impossible to reduct this year's operating budget to $5-million as Alberta Learning calls for, Fleming said [April 7, 2003]. Instead, the district will likely face a $10-million shortfall, half of which must come from cutting teachers and programs, he said. In addition, unless today's provincial budget contains a major financial boost, the board will quickly be in a deficit position again, Fleming predicted. 'We will be in a situation next year where we will have to make significant cuts to our staff, all the people in our district, in order to balance the budget,' he said. 'The people not being replaced will mean larger classes and fewer services.'"

—Tom Barrett and Tom Olsen, Edmonton Journal, April 8, 2003

Teachers will be laid off, boards say

"At least 800 teachers will lose their jobs as a direct result of the Alberta government's new education budget, says the Public School Boards' Association of Alberta. Executive director, David King said classroom sizes will swell as boards announce huge layoffs in an attempt to balance the books.  Edmonton Public Schools could be forced to lay off 'hundreds' of teachers due to a projected $10-million deficit, said spokesman Victor Tanti. Edmonton Catholic Schools, on the other hand, is predicting a zero deficit and few if any layoffs. Maureen Towns, chairman of the Elk Island Public Schools board, said a projected $6.9-million deficit equates to 70 full-time teachers' jobs, but it's too early to say how many will be laid off."

—Keith Bradford, Edmonton Sun, April 10, 2003

Wrestling with school budgets

"It appears that Livingstone Range School Division could be facing some significant fiscal challenges next year.  The result [of enrolment decline and teacher salary costs associated with the arbitrated settlement last year] was a shortfall of about $1.3 million for those two years, which was covered by a surplus that had been set aside for emergency purposes. However, those surplus funds are now nearly gone and that money is no longer available to subsidize teacher salaries. Unless there is a significant infusion of new dollars for education in the provincial budget this spring, our school division will be confronted with a shortfall of about $1-million. That translates into funding for about 14 teachers."

— David Rideout, superintendent LRSD, Ft. MacLeod Express, March 19, 2003