The Calgary Board of Education receives adequate funding to cover its operational expenses, but work needs to be done around busing, Education Minister David Eggen told reporters Thursday in an update to on ongoing review.
Operational funding for the CBE has been increased by $63 million since the NDP formed government, Eggen told reporters.
"That's led and allowed us to decrease class sizes, increase operational supports and help kids in the city of Calgary," he said. "So, despite this, I've been very concerned about talk about deficits and so forth."
The preliminary report shows funding from the province to the CBE has "met or exceeded the expenses of the Calgary Board of Education for the last three audited years," said Eggen, adding that is in line with funding provided to the province's three other large boards.
"Given that information, I'm very concerned about these reports of deficits they were talking about in the last three years, which didn't happen, and they're projecting here for the fall as well," he said.
'We know clearly there's a transportation issue'
The province will help CBE officials look at ways to improve bus routes, Eggen added, noting the use of congregated bus stops for students in alternative programs needs to be rejigged.
"We know clearly there's a transportation issue," he said.
"Parents have told us and we have seen that, too. And we are willing to work co-operatively with CBE to help to resolve that issue."
The transportation issue came to light with the passing of Bill 1 earlier this year, which eliminated mandatory fees for instructional materials such as textbooks or busing students to their designated schools.
The minister says he hopes the CBE will have concrete solutions by Thanksgiving.
"It's important to fund and provide good quality transportation to all different choices we have in the city of Calgary," said Eggen.
"It's a question of allocating and it's a question of building efficiencies to make sure we're paying for transportation specifically, and all of the other very complicated needs of our biggest board in Alberta here in the city of Calgary."
'Better service costs money'
The CBE says there was nothing new in the review.
"I think what this review has highlighted for us specifically, is that there is no new information whatsoever," board of trustees chair Joy Bowen-Eyre told reporter in an afternoon news conference.
"Everything that we submit to government, we do monthly, quarterly. We have independent financial audits. Any tweaks we can make, we are happy to work with the government to look at efficiencies."
Bowen-Eyre says, however, there is room for improvement to meet the expectations of Calgary parents.
"We want excellent quality public education. If they can have better busing, ideally that is what they would like to have. The funding formula for busing is only provided for kids over 2.4 kilometres. We all know, including the minister, that 2.4 kilometres to walk, is too far," she said.
"Ideally we would like better service, but better service costs money and so within a province of over 6 million people that is really difficult."
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