EDMONTON -- The Alberta Opposition says Education Minister Adriana LaGrange needs to start fighting for students or quit and make way for someone who will.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman says LaGrange is failing in her core mandate by announcing mass layoffs of school support staff, including teaching assistants and substitute teachers.

Hoffman says LaGrange should either fight for the funding in Premier Jason Kenney's United Conservative cabinet or resign.

LaGrange closed schools on March 15 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, but at that time said all school authorities would get their full funding for the current year.

But in an email sent out Saturday afternoon, LaGrange directed school boards to lay off thousands of workers to free up an estimated $128 million to fight COVID-19.

Hoffman says it was cruel and heartless to lay off 25,000 vital workers via a news release with little notice.

LaGrange was not made available for comment.