Student enrolment growth outpacing teacher hires

March 8, 2016
Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor

While the province has announced that its funding of enrolment growth has put 740 more teachers in ­Alberta classrooms, the Alberta Teachers’ Association is reminding residents that teacher growth is still lagging behind student growth by a three to one margin.

On March 2 Alberta Education issued a news release stating that the government’s commitment to fully funding enrolment growth has led to the hiring of more than 740 additional teachers this school year.

“We know many families are struggling during this economic downturn. Critics would say we should cut, which would result in fewer teachers in the classroom and less support for students,” said Education Minister David Eggen in the news release. “We will not cut and run when families need us the most. Rather, our top priority is ensuring that all of Alberta’s students are receiving an education that will prepare them for bright futures in a diversified economy.”

In May 2015, the government restored education funding for the 2015/16 school year, including $104 million for enrolment growth of 16,000 new students entering the system this school year. In late February the government announced the allocation of $51 million to ensure boards would be fully funded through to the end of the fiscal year.

Association president Mark Ramsankar said it’s great to see that the government’s funding injection to support student population growth is resulting in the hiring of more teachers as this will ensure that class sizes this year are not significantly greater than they were last year.

“Unfortunately, funding has been quite unstable over the past six years and there are long-term damages that will still need to be reversed,” ­Ramsankar said.

The rate of growth in the student population has been three times that of the teaching population, he said. For each new teaching position created in the past six years, nearly 50 new students have been added to public schools. Class sizes have grown by nearly 10 per cent and 56 of 61 school boards have class size averages that exceed provincial guidelines, he added.

In Calgary Public, class size data gathered by ATA Local No. 38 shows that 94 per cent of pupils between ages five and eight are learning in an oversized class. At the same time, teachers are seeing more students with special needs and more English language learners than ever before.

“The student population will continue to grow rapidly and funding support will need to continue,” Ramsankar said. “These demographic trends have a significant impact on student learning and teachers’ conditions of practice; we will need to discuss these issues with government.” ❚