Wages for educational assistants go down, drop below poverty line

CALGARY – The average wage for Albertans working as educational assistants (EAs) in the province’s school districts has dropped below the poverty line.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) President Rory Gill, Alberta Division, says the drop is reflective of a government underfunding education, and the fact education workers have not had a wage increase in eight years.

According to provincial government stats, published on their own website, the average wage for an educational assistant has dropped from $27,500 per year in 2022 to $26,400 in 2023. The hourly rate of pay has dropped from $22.40 to $20.58.

The federal government defines low income as any income that falls below 50% of the median income of a geographic area. That puts the Alberta poverty line at $26,550, slightly higher than the average salary for educational assistants.

The government website also indicates that the number of EA positions in Alberta schools has dropped from 16,800 to 14,600.

Educational assistants work in classrooms with special needs students and allow teachers to focus on instruction, while EAs implement programming.

Gill says school districts have been cutting hours to address funding shortfalls, and school instruction is taking a hit. Gill says many school districts are having trouble recruiting and retaining staff.

“Educational funding isn’t matching enrollment,” said Gill. “Add to that the fact that most educational workers have not seen a cost-of-living increase in over eight years, and you have school support workers living below the poverty line.”

“At a time of record inflation, educational assistants are losing income. That’s the UCP legacy so far.”

“Educational workers are bargaining right now, and the government is offering almost nothing. The people who educate and care for kids deserve a living wage. The Smith government has to act.”

ACTION ALERT: CUPE members, other education workers, parents and public are wearing purple on Wednesday September 20th to show our concern about the low wages and low funding in Alberta schools. Join us.