Operational funding for all school authorities will be the same, or higher, in the coming school year despite lower enrolment this year and growing school board reserves, says Alberta Education.
The department said operations will receive a $700-million boost over three years even though 726,654 students were projected for 2021-22, but only 716,868 were enrolled.
Some of that new funding will address pandemic-related cost pressures, as well as financial assistance for the first time to new school authorities starting up.
“Delivering a wide range of education choice to families remains a key priority for Alberta’s government. By ensuring all choices are well-funded, parents can select the type of education they feel will help their child reach their full potential,” said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange in a statement.
Kurt Sacher, superintendent of Chinook’s Edge School Division, said his jurisdiction is very optimistic about its allocation, but there are challenges, for example, the cost of diesel and replacement parts for school buses are expected to rise higher than what is provided in transportation funding.
“We continue to have some gaps that we need to explore further to get clarity. It’s important for the public to understand that just because the funding allocation has increased doesn’t mean you have proportionately more funds to apply to the challenges within your school division,” Sacher said.
But the good news is that school staffing levels should be maintained, or very close to it, he said.
“We don’t anticipate any significant shifts in staffing that wouldn’t be addressed through attrition,” Sacher said.
Red Deer Public Schools said it will receive $103.5 million in operational funding from the provincial government for the 2022-23 school year, which is the same amount it received for 2021/22.
“We are waiting for further details on funding for curriculum implementation and student well-being, which we expect in the near future. These dollars are anticipated to be above what we will receive in operational funding,” said school board chair Nicole Buchanan with Red Deer Public.
Alberta Education said if eligible under the education funding manual, new schools for existing school authorities will be funded for their actual enrolment for the first three years instead of the weighted moving average. This change applies to all public, separate, francophone, public charter and independent school authorities to better support the growth of new schools, sites, and programs.
Grant eligibility changes will also ensure public charter schools receive the same funding support for students as other public school authorities. This includes equitable supports for students with disabilities and those who require specialized supports through the Specialized Learning Supports grant.
The province is investing $2 million over the next two years in supports for home education students and families, including resources, virtual parent learning sessions, evaluations and coordinated consultations with speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, behavioural and mental health therapists, and psychologists.