Education minister and Red Deer-North MLA Adriana LaGrange was checking out lockers during a recent tour of Westpark Middle School in Red Deer. File photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

Red Deer school divisions concerned over provincial budget

Overall provincial education funding may have remained the same, but the reality will be felt in classrooms, say Red Deer’s two school divisions.

A key impact is the reallocation of funding for class size and classroom improvement to support student enrollment growth across the province. As a result, both Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and Red Deer Public Schools will face higher deficits than planned, they say.

Both school divisions anticipated funding shortfalls for this school year. However, now that the school divisions have seen the details and actual numbers in the provincial budget, more adjustments will have to be made, they say.

Red Deer Public Schools is facing an additional $3.5-million loss in funding on its original budget of $125 million and will need to fill that gap. Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools will see a $2-million reduction in funding from its original budget of $115 million.

This means both jurisdictions will have to use accumulated reserves to cover the deficits beyond what was anticipated.

“While our shared priority is to have the least impact on the classroom, this funding shortfall will ultimately have an affect on all classrooms, programs and students. Beyond that, our schools continue to grow, and now more than ever, we are experiencing more complexity in our classrooms with students and teachers needing more support, the school divisions said in a media release Monday.

“In preparation for projected funding changes, we reduced our allocations to schools and some programs by two per cent for the start of the 2019-2020 school year,” said superintendent V. Paul Mason at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.

“This decision has offset the bulk of the more than $2 million loss in funding we experienced with Thursday’s provincial budget. We will use our reserves to eliminate the remaining deficit, but we also are concerned about funding allocations going forward.”

Said Red Deer Public Schools superintendent Stu Henry: “After hearing more details of the 2019 provincial budget, Red Deer Public will be forced to reevaluate some of our priorities. These are priorities that were set before the 2019/20 school year, and reevaluating them mid-year will have a significant impact to staff and ultimately students.

“This could also mean examining school fees for next school year to offset costs due to the shortfall in provincial funding,”

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