As Budget Tightens, Time to Focus on What Matters

Alberta is facing a fiscal squeeze. Having run a deficit for five years, the provincial government is now saying that they may run an operational deficit this year and need to look at cutting spending.

Given that Alberta raises a significant amount of revenue through energy-related royalties, we should be able to get to a much stronger fiscal position than most other provinces and be putting money away for a future in which we can no longer rely on energy royalties. Unfortunately, we are running deficits in even relatively good times.

In that light, the government of Alberta is now looking at making cuts, and some of those could affect education. The government has told schools that new money previously promised for education may not materialize. You can read about that here.

We are calling on the government to reduce spending in a way that minimizes the impact on individual students. Canceling planned full-day kindergarten, ensuring modest salary growth, and reducing administrative expenditures unrelated to the classroom are good ways to ensure that budget cuts don’t adversely affect students. However, if the government does not control spending in these ways, the result will be larger class sizes and fewer options for students – things which everyone agrees are not desirable.

A tight fiscal situation has already led some people to call for the removal of choices for students, and for funding to be withdrawn from alternative options like independent schools. However, this would likely increase costs by increasing the burden on public schools – since the system spends a lot more on a student in a public school than on a student in an independent school.

There are opportunities to reduce spending, but expenditure restraint should not be used as an excuse to pursue an anti-school-choice ideological agenda.