Alberta’s budget doesn’t address the lack of support for teachers  

Alberta teachers need a better support system in order to support students.

Education is the passport to the future. Or at least, that’s what I’ve heard. But will that really be the case in Alberta? In March, the Government of Alberta announced funding for the construction of a handful of new schools. The province is finally addressing the need for more schools, but another dire issue still remains. Teachers are lacking the support they need to create a proper environment for students to learn and grow. 

An increase in population means more kids, which creates a greater need for more schools. But new schools are useless without teachers to teach in them. Current teachers are overworked and overwhelmed, partly because of the increase in students. The province needs to invest in teachers, not just new schools.

To put the need for new schools into perspective, Edmonton’s population has increased by 10.7 per cent in the past five years. That’s only a single city. Provinces like Ontario and British Columbia have the highest cost-of-living in Canada, and people have started to come to Alberta seeking a more affordable life. The Alberta government fostered this with the “Alberta is Calling” campaign — and it’s worked. There’s an influx of people moving to Alberta, which puts more strain on our education system and the people who work within it. Edmonton Public Schools (EPSB) has subsequently seen enrolment grow by 5,000 students each year, which could amount to 60,000 new students over the next decade.

It’s no secret that Edmonton schools are way over capacity. To give credit where it’s due, the Alberta Budget 2024 is funding 43 priority school projects, which seems perfect. This should mean better education for students. The population is increasing quickly and the government has to catch-up. But the province doesn’t seem like it’s keeping up with the amount of teachers needed. Or supporting the ones we have.

Teachers are becoming increasingly overwhelmed in the education system. One Alberta teacher said that “the workload of teaching, plus overwhelming class sizes,” caused their mental health to suffer significantly. As a result, they left teaching after five years. The increasing mental strain teachers have to endure is making teaching an unsustainable profession, at a time when we need teachers the most. 

Teachers in Alberta have been speaking out about the lack of resources and funding. The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) has recently launched the “Stop The Excuses” campaign to raise awareness about how we need more funding for schools. While Alberta ranks second in the world for reading and science, we have the lowest per-student public education funding in Canada. Although the province is starting to meet funding needs, the previous lack of funding has already created lasting effects.

Teachers need support in the classrooms right now that aren’t addressed by simply building new schools. Students’ needs are becoming more complex and diverse. A single teacher in a classroom with over 30 kids can’t always meet those needs — yet the province expects them to. Many teachers don’t have teaching assistants that are trained to help students with greater support needs. Having a teaching assistant could alleviate a huge burden off of a single teacher. Investing in teachers means investing in more support for them in the classrooms.

Through a survey, the ATA found that 37 per cent of Alberta teachers do not want to teach anymore or are doubting their job. Teachers are spending hours outside of work planning and grading, and they don’t think it’s worth the reward. Jason Schilling, president of the ATA, has pointed out that “dedicated teachers are exiting the province and the profession.” The current circumstances for teachers is hurting Alberta’s “ability to attract and retain teachers.” Teachers “feel demoralized and disrespected” with how the government is handling public education. Without enthusiastic and inspired teachers, the quality education suffers and so do students.  

It’s not uncommon to see high school principals and teachers asking students to join the teaching field due to a foreseeable shortage of teachers. I’ve personally seen the hope in a principal’s eyes when they hear a student wants to teach in the future. Our educators went into the teaching profession because they wanted to help set Alberta youth up for success. But no matter how much they care, they can only bear so much before they have to prioritize themselves.

Teachers need the support and funding that they’ve been calling on for years. The new schools built won’t matter because there won’t be enough people to teach in them. If we want students to flourish, we need a system that supports teachers by acknowledging their physical and mental health. With the current conditions of the education field, university students will only be discouraged from pursuing an education degree, only multiplying the issues we have. If the province allows teachers to keep struggling, our whole education system will continue to suffer.  

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