If you’re on Twitter, you may have seen the following tweet back in February, posted by Adriana LaGrange, the minister of education.
I’ve already touched on the myth that the UCP government is maintaining health spending, so today, I wanted to explore the claim that this government is maintaining education spending.
In the tweet above—and its accompanying image—LaGrange is trying to give the impression that Alberta is maintaining (or even increasing) spending, which impression might assuage public fears that they’re making spending cuts to education.
After all, $8.322 billion certainly seems bigger than $8.222 billion.
Here’s another image of the same data. I created it just for comparison’s sake regarding some more graphs I created.
Now, this graph would normally be fine, except it fails to account for two things: population growth and inflation.
If population increases, demand on education increases, too. You need more teachers, more educational assistants, more bus drivers, more administrative staff, and so on.
And that’s just the workers. You’ll also need more schools, more buses, more equipment, more supplies, more desks, and so on.
If inflation increases, the cost of delivering services also increases, too.
And I’m not even talking about just salaries. The cost of supplies goes up, the cost of fuel for the buses goes up, the cost of repairs go up, the cost of utilities goes up, and so on.
If you don’t keep up with population increases and inflation, but your student population increases, then your classroom sizes get larger, supplies get rationed, repairs get delayed, fewer students get bussed, and so on.
Alberta’s population in 2018 was about 4,301,000. In 2019, it was 4,371,000. That means there are 7.1% more people in the most recent budget year potentially needing education services than there were at the start of the first budget year of LaGrange’s table.
A good way to measure spending based on population is to see how much we spent per capita. (This chart assumes the same population growth for every budget year.)
We can see that spending per capita actually decreased this past year. While it increases for this year, it’s still lower than the last budget under the NDP, and it continues dropping for the two subsequent budget years.
Remember, however, that population was only one of the factors we must consider. The other is inflation.
The following graph shows what per capita spending is based on 2018 dollars. (I assume the same inflation for the last two budget years that occurred for 2019 and 2020: 2%.)
Alberta not only spent less on K–12 education per person in the most recent budget year, they spent even less when you account for inflation.
The UCP government spent $1,844.02 per capita in 2018 dollars on education in the most recent budget year. They should have spent $1,950.01 per person in 2018 dollars. That $8.222 billion that they spent in 2019 should have been $8.524. That’s over $300 million more than they had budgeted.
And that’s for the most recent budget year. The current budget year should be $8.691 billion instead of $8.322 billion. Next year should be $8.974 billion instead of $8.247.
And the budget year right before the next provincial election should be $9.261 billion instead of $8.247 billion. In other words, in the year leading up to the election, the UCP will be underspending on education by over $1 billion in that year. If you add up the difference from each budget year, the UCP will underspend by $2.412 billion during their entire term.
When Adriana LaGrange, Jason Kenney, a staffer, or even your own UCP MLA tells you that this government is maintaining spending on K–12 education, you can tell them why they’re wrong.
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