Nicole Buchanan, chair of Red Deer Public Schools board, says it’s too soon to say how the provincial government’s 2021-22 will impact the district. (Contributed file photo)

Nicole Buchanan, chair of Red Deer Public Schools board, says it’s too soon to say how the provincial government’s 2021-22 will impact the district. (Contributed file photo)

Red Deer school boards react to provincial budget

It’s still too soon to say how the latest provincial budget will impact Red Deer Public Schools, says the district’s board chair.

“The ministry maintained that no school jurisdiction will receive less funding in the 2021-22 school year than they did in the 2020-21 school year,” Nicole Buchanan said a day after the provincial government released its 2021-22 budget.

“On the surface this appears to be great news, but until we receive our school jurisdiction profile in late-March we won’t have a complete picture, with regards to what it looks like for Red Deer Public.”

The Government of Alberta introduced the 2021-22 budget in the legislature Thursday afternoon.

READ MORE: Red Deer hospital expansion gets about $6 million in 2021 provincial budget

Kim Pasula, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools board chair, said district trustees were “pleased to learn that a COVID-19 Mitigation Fund will ensure that no school authority in Alberta will receive less funding in 2021-2022 than they did in the last fiscal year.”

“It was also good news to hear that $40 million will be added to the provincial Learning Support Funding envelope that will help our schools address the specialized learning needs of students that require additional supports.”

Pasula said district staff, students and families have done an “excellent job” this year to ensure learning continued to be safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We incurred significant additional costs addressing the pandemic, but we expect that we will end this fiscal year in a solid financial position for the coming year,” Pasula said.

READ MORE: Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

As part of the budget, the government also committed to protecting its investment and planning for the future by maintaining and enhancing the existing school infrastructure and building new schools.

Kathleen Finnigan, RDCRS superintendent, said the details of the provincial budget will be reviewed in the coming weeks.

Jason Schilling, Alberta Teachers’ Association president, said the exact impacts of this budget for the next school year are unclear because the government isn’t releasing details of funding for school boards until the end of March.

“We are concerned that the government may be obscuring the reality of school board funding by conflating government fiscal years with school board fiscal years while delaying the release of the details by over a month,” said Schilling.

“We appreciate that the government is planning to hold school board’s harmless for lower enrolment this year as a result of COVID-19, but again the details of this are unclear until school board funding is announced.

“We are concerned that budget documents show $27 million less in expenditures on instruction in Budget 2021, while private schools see an increase of $20 million in funding.”

Schilling said the association will provide a full response to school board funding allocations when they are released next month.

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