Earlier this week, Adriana LaGrange, the minister of education, announced that she was increasing capital funding for school divisions by $250 million.
That seems like a lot of money, but, of course, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, this money isn’t going toward building new schools or increasing education spaces. It is primarily for maintenance and repair work, specifically projects that fall within these categories:
- Building envelope (roofs, doors, windows, exterior finishes)
- Mechanical (plumbing, heating, ventilation)
- Electrical (lighting)
- Structural (foundation)
- Site improvements (parking lot repair, regrading for drainage)
- Interior upgrades
Second, the media release claims that the projects will create 3,750 jobs. Except, it fails to mention how many of those jobs are full-time and whether any of them will end up being permanent.
Even so, Alberta lost 360,900 jobs in March and April combined. Between July 2019 and February 2020, it had a net decrease in jobs of over 52,000 jobs. Creating 3,750 jobs won’t make up for even 1% of the number of jobs lost over the last 10 months. If we ignore the 360,000 pandemic job losses, we’re still looking at only 7% of the jobs losses since July 2019.
Third, notice this statement in the release:
This initiative is an acceleration of investment in school maintenance and renewal projects
In other words, this is not additional funding. They’re taking funding from later in the 4-year budget and moving it to the current budget year.
Finally, let’s look at the total capital funding announced by the current provincial government.
In a document titled Capital Plan 2019–23 Details by Ministry, the provincial government announced last November that they were budgeting about $445 million for capital spending before the 2023 provincial election.
Compare that to what the previous provincial government showed in the business plan for the education ministry in the spring of 2018.
The current government is spending less in total education capital investment over 4 years than the previous provincial government spent (or planned to spend) in any one year.
This announcement suddenly became less significant.