The provincial budget announced Feb. 25 pledges to maintain funds directed to school boards for the 2021/22 school year but has left out the arithmetic that generates the total number. The school jurisdiction funding manual and funding profiles that normally accompany the release on budget day will be released later in March.
The government budget highlights that department of education funding to school jurisdictions for the government’s 2021 budget year will remain the same as the 2020 budget year at $7.53 billion.
“I am proud to uphold our commitment to maintain education funding, especially with the fiscal challenges the province is facing,” said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.
School boards had been concerned that their funding would be impacted in future years as a result of lower enrolment due to COVID-19. The new three-year averaging process for determining enrolment numbers would have meant that the lower enrolment from this year would decrease funding across the next two school years.
“This school year we did not penalize school boards for the reduced enrolment they experienced during COVID-19, nor will we in the upcoming school year,” LaGrange said.
A news release from the Alberta School Boards Association says it is “pleased that school divisions will be held harmless from the impacts of pandemic-related enrolment challenges in Budget 2021,” but ATA president Jason Schilling is withholding judgment until the details are released.
“We appreciate that the government is planning to hold school boards harmless for lower enrolment this year as a result of COVID-19, but again the details of this are unclear until school board funding is announced,” 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.”
Schilling said that public education will continue to experience cost pressures as enrolment is expected to grow again, new curriculum will be piloted and COVID will still be impacting classrooms into the fall.
“We’re not sure the funding will be there to support these challenges,” Schilling said. “The devil will be in the details and we just don’t have those yet.”
The budget also included $268 million for 14 new school construction and modernization projects as part of the government’s capital budget. On March 10 the government issued a news release announcing that new schools would be built in Calgary, Camrose, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Manning and Red Deer. The announcement also included five modernizations or additions and two school replacement projects. ❚