An open letter to Education Minister Gordon Dirks:
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS) appreciates the efforts the provincial government and Alberta Education puts forth every year on behalf of students. We understand the constraints facing the province, as there is a considerable gap between projected revenues and departmental expenditures.
While we understand the constraints, RDCRS along with other school boards firmly believes education is key to the overall success and future of our province. According to the Accountability Pillar Reports, RDCRS and other school boards are doing an excellent job in educating the future citizens and leaders in this province.
We understand that as a school board we are responsible for operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. However, for the 2015-2016 school year, we are projecting a total shortfall of approximately $4 million, due to grant reductions, a freeze on funding for enrolment growth and restrictions on the use of our reserves. I am writing today, on behalf of the board of trustees and the students of Red Deer Catholic, to ask you to reconsider these decisions.
Our current population projections estimate that RDCRS will see an additional 300 to 400 students enrolled next year and hundreds more over the next three years. Under the current provincial fiscal plan for the 2015-2016 school year, student population growth will not be funded. This will contribute to a $2 million shortfall in funding.
By not funding growth, we are effectively reducing the per-pupil funding for every student while increasing class sizes. This will result in significant short and long term negative implications for students and teachers.
As you are aware, reserves are the result of careful planning and spending. Our board of trustees and RDCRS works hard to be financially responsible and accountable to our communities. These reserves are used to maintain our schools’ funding levels to protect students and classrooms against the fluctuations in provincial funding. In 2014-2015, RDCRS used approximately $800,000 in operating reserves to maintain its programs and services to our students. We will continue to be fiscally responsible by looking for efficiencies throughout our division. However, these restrictions on the use of our reserves and lack of enrolment growth funding will have a negative impact on the learning environment for our students, teachers and support staff.
We ask you to reconsider these restrictions and allow RDCRS, along with other school boards throughout the province, the flexibility to ensure we can meet the needs of our students and to create learning environments that best meet the needs of our local community. The ramifications of the provincial budget will become more noticeable on our jurisdiction, schools and students over the next three years as the freeze on enrolment growth funding and restrictions on the use of reserves becomes more pronounced.
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools