UCP redirects school funding to COVID-19, NDP and ATA upset by the move

by Morinville News Staff

The UCP Government announced in a press release Saturday that it will be temporarily adjusting K-12 funding while schools are closed and moving the savings to its COVID-19 response.

The estimated $128 million, is being adjusted to “reflect the cost of at-home learning” by students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The UCP say they will restore funding when in-person classes resume.

The rolled-back funding is for transportation, substitute teachers and educational assistants, and the UCP say the funding adjustments will not negatively impact Alberta’s education continuity plan as school authorities will receive required funding for at-home learning.

“COVID-19 has changed both how we provide student learning and the operational needs of the education system,” said Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange in Saturday’s release. “I want to stress that this is a temporary arrangement as schools focus on at-home learning. I have full confidence the system will continue to be equipped to successfully deliver our education continuity plan.”

Alberta’s NDP Opposition called the move as pure cruelty that will push tens of thousands of Albertans into unemployment.

“This is pure cruelty,” said NDP Opposition Critic for Education Sarah Hoffman. “Jason Kenney is doing harm to students with complex needs, their families, and to tens of thousands of Alberta workers.”

Hoffman said students need stability and support with their learning at home right now, something she says the Premier does not care about.

The NDP is also critical of a Mar. 19 promise by LaGrange that all funding for students with complex needs would be maintained.

“That was yet another lie and a broken promise to families with special needs from Minister LaGrange, and perhaps the cruelest one of all,” Hoffman said.

It is a view shared by the Alberta Teacher’s Association (ATA), who issued a statement on their Facebook page Saturday.

“Today’s announcement is very concerning. We are worried about the thousands of workers who will be laid off at this very stressful time,” said Jason Schilling, ATA president. “Teachers and educational assistants work closely together to facilitate student learning. EAs were stepping up and pitching in to help with accommodations and to deliver resources to students with inadequate technology. We still have serious concerns about how students with special needs will be supported through this time – Many parents are struggling and need as much help as possible.”

The ATA praised the Trudeau government for “stepping up to protect people and the economy through a humane, far-sighted and compassionate program.”

The ATA said the UCP missed an opportunity to show “real leadership in a crisis by ensuring that thousands of Albertans have continuity of income.” during the crisis.

“This decision effectively adds 25,000 people to the unemployment line today, including 6,000 substitute teachers and up to 20,000 non-certificated staff,” the ATA statement said.

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