Education minister defends absence from COVID-19 updates, touts low percentage of cases in schools

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LaGrange has repeatedly said that if school boards need additional resources, the province will make them available.

In an interview with Global Edmonton last week, she said she had not received requests for extra funding from school boards, but on Thursday she clarified that she has heard those requests.

The province is still determining what reopening and COVID-19-related costs to the education system will be.

“What we’re hearing now is the actual details to that. In the early days, back in May and June, we were hearing generalities,” said LaGrange.

Initial cost projections pegged sanitizing one bus after drop-off at $35, but now that cost is more like $2, said LaGrange.

While the minister pointed out that this year’s school budget saw an increase of $120 million, the ATA says school boards are still funded less than they were two years ago, and the increase doesn’t make up for cuts in previous years.

With rising enrolments, even flat education spending means less funding per student.

But LaGrange said because the province is using a new funding formula, it is difficult to compare per-student funding year over year.

“In the old per-student funding model, we had included administrative costs in that. And now that is a separate line item so you really can’t compare one to the other,” she said.

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