Central Alberta school jurisdictions are still deciphering the new funding model, while at the same time crunching numbers from last week’s provincial budget.
Chinook’s Edge School Division got $110.5 million in operational funding for 2020-21, up from $109.3 million in 2019-20.
But superintendent Kurt Sacher said that while some grants have increased, such as for transportation and facilities, the division has to address a preliminary shortfall of $1.8 million that affects instruction and other areas.
The division was short $2.8 million in the 2019-20 budget. Reserves were used to address that deficit, so the new budget compounds the problem. It helps that the funding model provides more flexibility and reduces red tape to improve efficiencies, he said.
“We do not anticipate class sizes changing across the division. Any minor reductions to staffing levels will be done through attrition. We don’t see families affected by abrupt layoffs,” Sacher said.
He said the budget could be met with a blend of office reductions, utilizing some reserves and doing some internal work.
“Overall, when you look at other ministries and what they’re having to deal with, when you look at the province’s financial situation, we’re not surprised by the reductions they’re expecting us to make. We’re confident we can make those.”
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools experienced a $4.75-million budget shortfall for 2019-20, and will get $95 million in 2020-21, up from $94 million.
Interim superintendent Kathleen Finnigan said the division won’t comment on the budget’s impact until the end of March.
“It is important that we do not rush this process and we would rather take our time. The unpacking and subsequent application of all the new funding regulations are essential to our school division, and we want to make sure we maximize each area to ensure our goal of reducing the impact on classrooms,” said Finnigan in a statement.
Red Deer Public Schools also said it needed more time before commenting.
While the province maintained its $8.2-billion education budget, Kelly Aleman, local Alberta Teachers’ Association president for Red Deer public, said increased enrolment creates increased costs, so the result is definitely a shortage.
Teachers are worried government will rip up their agreement like it recently did to doctors, he said.
“Bargaining is always give and take. Remove that, and you remove teachers’ voice from things that they think are important You’re just asking for conflicts,” Aleman said.
He said the ATA is paying close attention to teachers in Ontario, who have been protesting stalled contract talks.
“It could be a bit of a template for what is happening here. A lot of the things teachers there are fighting with the Ford government are what teachers are concerned about here: class size, complexity.”