Calgary

Alberta's school board funding remains unclear following budget 2021

Without school jurisdiction funding profiles or next year’s funding manual, Alberta school boards say they don't know exactly how they're being funded individually.

Funding for K-12 education will go from $8.32B in 2020-21 to $8.24B in 2021-22

Alberta Teachers' Association president Jason Schilling said documents usually released on budget day, including school funding manuals and school jurisdiction funding profiles, weren't made available Thursday. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

The Alberta Teachers' Association says the devil will be in the details for education funding in the 2021-22 school year. 

ATA president Jason Schilling says documents usually released on budget day, including school funding manuals and school jurisdiction funding profiles, weren't made available Thursday and aren't expected to be released until next month.

Overall funding for K-12 education in Alberta will go from $8.32 billion in 2020-21 to $8.24 billion for 2021-22, and stay that way for the following two years.

"The exact impacts of this budget for the next school year are unclear, because the government is not releasing details of funding for school boards until the end of March," Schilling said.

"We are concerned that the government may be obscuring the reality of school board funding by conflating government fiscal years with school board fiscal years, while delaying the release of the details by over a month."

Calgary Catholic School District chair Mary Martin said school boards need those documents to understand how unique packets of money — like grants and specialized learning supports — are being divvied up.

"The funding manual is like the recipe book for funding jurisdictions," she said.

"We need to see the details that are forthcoming to understand what this budget's going to mean for Calgary Catholic."

Martin said school boards have been told that Alberta Education is looking at adjusting some of those unique packets of money, but they haven't been given any further details.

In an interview with CBC News on Friday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said that while those documents are forthcoming, she wants to ensure school divisions that none of them will see their funding go down compared with the current school year. 

"But they will receive their funding profiles by the end of March, and in the meantime we've shared data, you know, the formula so that they can look at their weighted moving average and that they can kind of use the current funding model to to project out while they are waiting for the new funding model," she said. 

LaGrange said the government has moved significant dollars in the education budget into the learning supports envelope, which covers the costs of things like the Program Unit Funding (PUF) grant and the school nutrition grant.

"We really felt strongly because of the fact that we've been in a COVID environment, as well as what we've been hearing from school divisions, that we wanted to re-look at that whole envelope and as such there's an additional $40 million in that overall funding envelope," she said.

"Which is quite significant, when you think that the overall funding in that envelope is going to be at $1.35 billion."

Schilling said the ATA is also concerned that the budget shows $27 million less in spending on instruction, while private school funding sees an increase of $20 million.

"When you see a decrease in the basic instructional grant, we need to know how that's reflected in the school board's funding manuals," he said.

"When you don't have those funding manuals right away, it's difficult to see what that impact will be on schools and students and teachers."

LaGrange said that because this is the first year utilizing this funding model, there were still a few things in the funding manual and funding profiles they needed to iron out. 

"We had committed all along that we would review it and ensure that we had all the right points. And we want to make sure that the new funding model reflects what we are hearing from school divisions," she said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson

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