Educational assistant Shawnanne Bradley works with Grade 2 student Avery Fox at Ecole Barrie Wilson Elementary School. Administrators are anxious to learn how their budgets will be impacted by the new provincial government. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

School jurisdictions grapple with funding uncertainty

School administrators are playing a guessing game as they budget for this fall without knowing how much provincial funding they will receive.

Kurt Sacher, superintendent at Chinook’s Edge School Division and president of the College of Alberta School Superintendents, said the big question is whether the government will fully fund the arbitrated settlement on teachers’ wages, as well as new enrolment growth.

“I have expressed concern with the deputy minister and minister that we would like to see a little bit more clarity,” Sacher said Wednesday.

Teachers have had a six-year wage freeze and an arbitrator’s report to settle wages will be ready by the end of September.

Sacher said the classroom improvement fund and nutrition grant are expected to be eliminated.

Chinook’s Edge operates with $130 million and its new budget is being built around not receiving the classroom improvement fund, which would require some staffing adjustments through attrition.

“We’ve been assured by government that they’re working on it and we’ll get those key pieces we need. We’re just trying to be patient. But we would benefit from some general direction in a week or so.”

In a worst-case scenario, Chinook’s Edge has a very low level of reserves that would have to be used on a temporary basis, he said.

“We’re optimistic this government is not interested in significant cuts to education, so we’re hoping to see that realized as we move forward,” Sacher said.

Bev Manning, Red Deer Public Schools board chair, said they understand the new government needs time to sort through everything, but boards are still in a difficult position.

“The thing we’re most concerned about is if they don’t fund enrolment growth. Funding enrolment growth, to me, should be a given. When we’re funded on a per pupil basis, you should be funded on a per pupil basis,” Manning said.

Per pupil grants pay for teachers, and putting enough teachers in front of students is the best way to educate students, she said.

“The only way to balance the budget is cutting back on teachers. That’s what ends up happening when we don’t have enough funding, and that’s unfortunate, because that’s what affects class size. What we really want is teachers in front of students.”

She said having Red Deer-North MLA Adriana LaGrange, a former board chair of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools, named education minister is a bonus.

“I think it can only be a positive when there’s somebody there with that wealth of knowledge. I anticipate she will at least be able to offer great advice to the finance department as to what those funding issues, and ramifications of any changes, would mean,” Manning said.

Related:

Alberta teachers wait for wage arbitration

Larger classrooms could result from UCP cutting education funding, say Red Deer school trustees

In a statement, Paul Mason, superintendent with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, said his jurisdiction is optimistic the provincial government will continue to fund increases in student enrolment and look to address other chronic education funding concerns.

“We are taking a cautious and prudent approach to budgeting for the upcoming school year. Our priority is to have the least impact on classrooms and student learning as possible.

“We are fortunately in a sound financial position and will continue to strategically use our reserves to offset funding shortfalls,” Mason said.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Red Deer stamp-collecting event a hit, local club expected to start in fall

Postage stamp-loving Red Deerians can expect to have a place to gather… Continue reading

Red Deer woman one of three arrested by Sundre RCMP

The 19-year-old had numerous arrest warrants out of various jurisdictions

Businessman and volunteer named 2019 Citizen of the Year

John Donald’s parents and sister were each honoured previously

School leader named Red Deer Young Citizen of the Year

Leading by example at Hunting Hills High School

Suspects shot at pursuing police during crime spree

No police officers were injured in May 17 shooting

WATCH: Sunnybrook Farm Museum in Red Deer welcomes spring

Sunnybrook Farm Museum is celebrating spring in Red Deer. On Saturday, the… Continue reading

Cast your votes for the Best of Red Deer

Nominations for the Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are officially… Continue reading

Stan Lee’s former manager arrested on elder abuse charges

LOS ANGELES — A former business manager of Stan Lee has been… Continue reading

BCUC sets out process for gas and diesel price inquiry, set to wrap Aug. 30

VANCOUVER — The British Columbia Utilities Commission says it has set out… Continue reading

2 hikers rescued after darkness sets in on trail near Cypress Mountain

North Shore Rescue says it rescued two hikers caught in the darkness… Continue reading

Canada beats Czech Republic to advance to gold-medal game at world championship

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Canada’s latest win at the world hockey championship left… Continue reading

Rimouski forward Lafreniere, Prince Albert goaltender Scott earn CHL awards

HALIFAX — Rimouski Oceanic star Alexis Lafreniere has been named the Canadian… Continue reading

10 wounded as gunmen open fire outside New Jersey bar

TRENTON, N.J. — Authorities say at least two gunmen fired into a… Continue reading

Mississippi rep accused of punching wife issues statement

JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi lawmaker accused of recently punching his wife… Continue reading

Most Read