Association president Mark Ramsankar listens to a budget question from Danielle Smith, former Wildrose leader and current radio host for Calgary's NewsTalk 770, at the Alberta legislature on April 14.
Status quo approach an investment in the economy, Ramsankar says
Alberta Teachers’ Association president Mark Ramsankar is applauding the provincial government’s 2016 budget for protecting current classroom conditions for Alberta’s students. The budget provides essentially no changes to school board grant rates but funds student enrolment growth, projected to be 1.3 per cent.
“The government made a bold choice, in the face of stagnant revenues, to protect public education by ensuring enrolment growth is funded,” said Ramsankar. “Funding for around 8,000 new students will create about 400 additional teaching jobs and ensure that conditions in Alberta’s classrooms are maintained.”
With the government facing a 40-year low in natural resource revenues, it would be an easy mistake to slash and burn education funding, Ramsankar noted.
“By protecting the classroom and maintaining teaching
positions, this budget represents an investment in the economy for today and for tomorrow,” he said.
The budget contains two new announcements a pilot project for implementing school lunch programs and funding to support indigenous students from First Nations communities who attend a provincial school. The school lunch program pilot is a departure from the $10 million that was pledged in the October 2015 budget for implementation this fall. Budget 2016 projects that funding to be implemented in the fall of 2017. Anticipated funding to support the reduction of school fees was also deferred to later fiscal years.
“I am disappointed that last fall’s promises on lunch programs and school fee relief are not being fully realized,” said Ramsankar. “These important equity initiatives are even more critical in a struggling economy.”
Ramsankar said teachers will be concerned about the lack of additional funding to support special needs students and that significant classroom complexity issues will not be resolved.
“Unfortunately, we will not see the improvements that are necessary to reverse classroom erosion that goes back to 2009, but I appreciate the efforts to prevent further damage,” he said. “Teachers and parents will need to continue to advocate for improvements to public education, and we will need to push for the revenue reform required to make sure that core services are supported by stable revenue sources.”
With limited funding being provided to school boards during a time of enrolment growth, Ramsankar called on school boards to ensure that increased resources are focused on the classroom.
“This is not a time for new boutique initiatives that distract from the core work of teaching and learning,” he said. ❚