By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on November 29, 2023.
The Government of Alberta announced it will be distributing $30 million in additional funding to school districts throughout the province.
The news was announced on Tuesday morning by Minister of Education, Demetrios Nicolaides, who, along with Edmonton Catholic School board chair, Sandra Palazzo spoke from Holy Child Catholic Elementary School in Edmonton.
The funding is expected to be available to school districts in December and is an addition to the $8.8 billion budgeted for the 2023-24 school year. It comes as the province says they anticipate a population boom not seen in Alberta since 1914.
“For many school authorities, enrollment growth is beyond projections,” said Nicolaides. “Alberta’s government is committed to keep our education system world class, and this investment will help us achieve that goal.”
Nicolaides explained that for actual enrolment growth up to 100 students, school authorities will receive $1,500 per student, and growth exceeding 100 students will be give $2,000 per student. This, Nicolaides says is to ensure every new student in Alberta is funded.
However, President of the Alberta Teachers’ Association Jason Schilling, says the funding is insufficient.
In a statement released by the ATA in response to the minister, Schilling says “this announcement does not even stop the situation from getting worse.” The release explains, “School boards are short about $135 million this year as a result of the province not fully funding these students.”
Under the 2023-24 budget, for students enrolled in Grades One to Nine, school districts receive $6,492 per student in funding, and for students in enrolled in their first three years of high school – the number changes for those who take additional time- districts receive $7,141 per student. However, those only apply to the projected enrollment numbers. The funding will aim to supplement for unexpected increases in enrollment.
“We have advocated, and will continue to advocate, for alterations to the funding formula to ensure growing divisions are not at a disadvantage,” said Lethbridge School Division Board Chair, Allison Purcell.
“Lethbridge School Division appreciates the government’s recognition that financial support is needed for the 2023/2024 school year for divisions such as ours that are experiencing enrolment growth.”
Purcell adds, “additional funds are welcome as our division strives to provide the highest quality education possible to students throughout the system.”
Palazzo explained, “Although we strive to accurately forecast our enrollment projections for the year, immigration and migration are often unpredictable.”