Federal education funding still in limbo days before Alberta back-to-school

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Alberta NDP Opposition education critic Sarah Hoffman said Saturday there should be no excuse from the provincial government for not starting funding distribution to local school authorities.

She cited Ontario, where provincial officials provided a breakdown of how they would use their funding the same day as the federal announcement, as proof the Alberta government should have been able to set a plan in motion more quickly.

“I think it’s reprehensible that they have been sitting on this funding. They should have funded improved learning and working conditions when they closed schools more than five months ago. They should have had plans in place,” Hoffman said.

“For the province to stand in the way of those federal dollars being able to reduce risk for kids when they go back this week is dangerous. … The province should immediately give this money over to the school authorities who are actually working with kids.”

Hoffman added even if there is a delay in cash flow from the federal government, she thinks the UCP government could alert school boards of how much money they will have to spend so they can begin hiring additional teachers.

To date, Alberta has spent $10 million in school re-entry, directed towards personal protective equipment for schools. They have otherwise instructed school boards to use reserve funds totalling about $363 million province-wide to pay for costs related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aitchison said the province will ensure school districts have resources necessary to facilitate a safe return to school, including by potentially adjusting the provincial school re-entry plan.

He added school authorities would be able to use funding for expenses related to COVID-19 including facilitating online learning, teaching and substitute costs, transportation and increased cleaning.

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