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Alberta Budget 2022: | Calgary Herald


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Despite just a slight increase in spending from last year, Alberta Education’s Budget 2022 sets an ambitious agenda funding a controversial new curriculum, addressing learning gaps and bolstering charter schools.

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Up to $7.8 billion from last year’s $7.7 billion, provincial funding for K-12 schools increases by 1.7 per cent, or a total of $138 million this year.

But when adding school jurisdictions’ “own source” revenues and federal funding for COVID, total support to education will be at $8.4 billion for 2022-23.

Over the next three years, the UCP goverment estimates spending will move towards $8.5 billion, investing $700 million in what the province describes as “more support for teachers, funding enrolment growth and strengthening parental choice in education.”

For capital work, $1.5 billion will be spent over the next three years, with investments in 15 different projects, which could be new schools or modernizations on existing schools with more details expected in the coming weeks.

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Part of the $700 investment in schools will be $191 million over the next three years to implement Alberta’s Education’s controversial new curriculum — even as the majority of school districts in the province refused to pilot it, the Alberta Teachers’ Association rejected it, and some school districts officially requested implementation be delayed.

Parents and other education stakeholders are now participating in virtual feedback sessions on the K-6 draft until the end of February, but many are still expressing deep frustrations and criticism.

While the government does plan to delay some of its more controversial subjects for another year — including social studies, criticized by experts as regressive, not age appropriate and lacking in diversity — new drafts are now being developed.

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Still, in September, sections of the new K-6 English language arts, physical education and mathematics will be taught in classrooms, tied to a Budget 2022 investment of $59 million, much of which will support teacher training.

“Moving forward, Alberta’s education system will continue to be well-funded and provide an amazing education for all students in all corners of the province,” LaGrange said.

“Moreover, implementation of the draft K-6 curriculum will be supported by a significant investment in resources and teacher training.

“The new curriculum will better prepare our youth for the jobs of tomorrow.”

Stakeholders asked for a pause on the new curriculum partly because of concerns around pandemic disruptions and learning losses after students have been forced to bounce back and forth between learning in person and learning from home over the past two years.

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In Budget 2022, Alberta Education will target funding of $30 million in 2022-23, and $40 million in each of the following two years to support students experiencing academic challenges, as well as supporting students with well-being and mental health.

And while the province recently lifted masking requirements in all K-12 schools, seeing COVID-19 as an “endemic” schools must learn to live with, Alberta Education will funnel $13 million in 2022-23 for ventilation improvement projects as part of a new School Safe Indoor Air Initiative.

Like younger kids, older students in Grades 7 to 12 will also receive unique learning supports in Budget 2022, including an investment of $3 million over the next three years for a financial literacy initiative giving them a stronger base of financial knowledge that reflects the modern world.

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Vocational or “collegiate programming” will also be expanded for older students, particularly for those interested in skilled trades and the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Charter schools are expected to be increasingly supported as centres of those unique programs, receiving up to $47 million over the next three years.

Public education advocates have raised concerns about a rise in supports for charter schools, calling them exclusive with wait lists and limited access, and a move towards privatization.

But charter schools say they are public schools, and do not charge tuition.

eferguson@postmedia.com

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