School dollars tighten

Central Alberta board chairs and superintendents met with Education Minister Dave Hancock at the Red Deer Lodge on Thursday to talk about future fiscal planning in education and how to continue to meet the needs of students with constrained finances.

Education Minister Dave Hancock

Central Alberta board chairs and superintendents met with Education Minister Dave Hancock at the Red Deer Lodge on Thursday to talk about future fiscal planning in education and how to continue to meet the needs of students with constrained finances.

“Resources are always an issue. There are never enough resources to do things,” Hancock said.

“I’ve been in government for 13 years now and there is always more ask than answer, that’s not the question. The question is can we achieve what we need to achieve given the resources that we get, and working with the people that we have to work with across the province we can do that.”

School boards across the province found out in August that there would be clawbacks to their funding by Alberta Education and they would be forced to dip into their reserves.

It has meant a reduction in close to $1 million to the Red Deer Public School District’s $97 million budget and around an 11 per cent reduction to the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division’s $64 million budget.

Bill Stuebing, the chair of the Red Deer Public School District board, said at the school board meeting this week the trustees tried to find a way of surmounting the $1-million hill.

“The worst case scenario would be that for next year we could be looking at a $4 to $5-million hill. That couldn’t be handled out of accumulated reserves. So part of me is anxious, part of me is optimistic,” Stuebing said.

He said he knows that the education minister is committed to education.

“I do know that he perceives education as we do, not just as teaching Johnny how to read or Mary to do math, but this is the way we build and develop our communities in the future,” Stuebing said.

“It’s not just a question of what will be the budget for the province next year, but what will be the future for Alberta in 40 or 50 or 60 years.”

Jim Gibbons, superintendent of the Chinook’s Edge School Division, said he hopes the blip in funding doesn’t last too long and that they can find a way to even out the impact so they aren’t just slashing and burning and then trying to hire back the next year.

“I think we’re all a little nervous of not this year, but the following year and trying to speculate — as the government — what will the economy look like next year,” Gibbons said.

Paulette Hanna, superintendent of the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division, said it was a positive meeting. She said they looked at how they could still deliver a quality education in Alberta and do it as fiscally responsible as possible.

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