After several years of flat education spending (which amounted to real cuts, leaving thousands of Alberta students in public schools unfunded), the mere injection of 5.2% of operational funding will hardly meet the bare minimum for funding enrollment growth. Statistics Canada found that Alberta comes in dead last and well below the national average in per-student spending. Alberta students sit in some of the largest, most crowded classrooms compared to other provinces. Coupled with historic inflation, increased insurance premiums, increased utility costs, and pandemic measures, as well as pandemic learning losses, this budget leaves public school students with even less supports and resources than they had in 2019. Despite the government's huge surplus, this budget leaves students in public schools ignored and gravely neglected.
The real winners of this budget are private and charter schools. There is new funding for private school transportation and new charter school construction. Private schools are already subsidized at the highest rate in the nation at 70% of the per-pupil rate. Nineteen private schools in Alberta charge more than $12,000 of private tuition per student per year. These are not students that need more public assistance in attending their exclusive education. Public funding belongs to PUBLIC schools that serve all students.
Charter schools are private entities that siphon public funding and skim which students they want, but they are not public schools. Their expansion (with public funds) means community public schools will educate more complex classrooms with fewer resources or close down altogether if they fall under utilization rates. Charter schools will receive $117 million of new capital funding over 3 years. An urban Charter Hub to sell more student spaces in Calgary and Edmonton will be given $42 million to expand over 3 years. An additional $32 million in new public money will be spent on “acquiring and renovating school buildings for charter schools” (p 106, Fiscal Plan). All these millions of dollars are crucial resources that could go towards re-hiring educators, therapists, librarians, school counsellors, and restoring PUF in public schools.
“The UCP have shown their true priorities in this final pre-election budget and it’s not Alberta students. Their offerings do not come close to making up for the past 4 years of relentless cuts and attacks on public education. Instead, they are diverting more public and surplus dollars to private and charter schools who do not serve the public. Enough is enough, Alberta voters need to vote for public education.” - Medeana Moussa, Executive Director, SOS Alberta
The UCP’s 2023 Budget tosses minimal surplus spending at public education, which is struggling from years of strain. Students deserve better than being ignored by this government. Moreover, public dollars should go to public schools, period. Public schools educate the public for the public good while charter and private schools are exclusive entities that lack oversight and transparency in educating the select few.
Media inquiries please contact:
Wing Li (she/her)
Communications Director, Support Our Students Alberta