'These aids are just tremendous': Families worry about layoffs of educational assistants after government funding cut
Published Sunday, March 29, 2020 5:23PM MDT
EDMONTON -- Albertans are raising concerns about potential layoffs of educational assistants after the province announced on Saturday that it would be temporarily cutting K-12 education funding until the COVID-19 crisis is over.
For many families that have children with extra learning needs, the news came as a shock, after the minister of education had promised not to cut funding.
"School authorities will receive their full allotment of funding for the 2019 - 2020 school year," said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange two weeks ago.
The words were reassuring to Annika Froese’s family. The 7-year-old has Rett Syndrome and can’t walk or talk, but her father says she’s keeping pace with her peers in math and science thanks to an educational assistant.
"These aids are just tremendous at keeping her on track," Duane Froese said.
But any reassurance has faded now that the province announced as long as kids aren’t in class, funding will be cut from transportation, substitute teachers and educational assistants.
The province will use the $128 million in savings for the COVID-19 response.
"We just didn’t see it coming. I don’t think anybody saw it coming." Froese said.
The Alberta Teachers Association estimates about 6000 substitute teachers and 20,000 support staff will be affected.
Educational assistants like Coreen Spencer, who was hesitant to speak with CTV News but wants Albertans to understand removing an EA also means removing a child’s pillar of support.
"They’re relying on us to be there for them," she said. "The teachers are also relying. You know we’ve been on spring break this week but my phone has been busy all week."
"I want to stress that this is a temporary arrangement as schools focus on at-home learning. I have full confidence that the system will continue to be equipped to successfully deliver our education continuity plan," LaGrange said.
It’s still unclear whether Froese’s EA will be let go. Her parents have tried to help but aren’t professionally trained and they’re concerned without an EA, she may fall behind.
"We want Annika to go onto university like other girls who have Rett Syndrome like Annika, that’s the condition Annika has, have been able to do but they’re only able to do that if they have these supports."
An investment he wants the province to continue make, even as COVID-19 costs keep going up.