By Justin Seward
Alberta Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange announced on Feb. 18 that there will be a new way of funding for Alberta’s K-12 education system.
The new system will drive more dollars in to the classroom where they can deliver the best outcome for students.
“Our new funding model gives schools more of what they want – flexibility, stability and predictability. Flexibility to invest provincial dollars in areas that make the most sense for their communities. Stability in the number of grants and what the province expects for reporting. And predictability in their funding envelope to allow for better planning well ahead of each school year,” said LaGrange.
The new model provides more predictability in funding by changing from one-year enrolment counts to a three-year average and reducing the mid-year adjustments for a school’s budget.
“I guess in the rural school division this is going to be extremely helpful,” said Ryan Boser, Prairie Rose School Division’s secretary treasurer.
“Especially as a part of the budgeting process, knowing what our dollars are going to be ahead of time and no longer will we see funding shortfalls based on the changes in enrollment of spring projections to the fall (enrolment) actuals. As you recall , the 2019-20 school year was the first year in almost a decade that Prairie Rose did not see a decline in enrolment.”
Boser says PRSD was also pleased with the minister making a commitment as a part of the budget to ensure that front line services are protected.
“That aligns with our school jurisdiction thinking as well,” said Boser.
“We do what’s best for our students and ensure we have as much resources as possible in front of our students.”
The model will also reduce the red tape and gives more flexibility to school divisions to determine how to best invest in taxpayer dollars, by simplifying the number of grants to 15 from 36 and while maintaining education funding.
School divisions will have reduced reporting obligations and more leeway to direct funding to support the needs of students.
“We’re pleased that the government is trying to reduce the amount of administrative type work around not just the funding grants applications but also some of the different rapporting that some of the school jurisdictions have to do on annual basis,” said Boser.
“Over the years that has grown quite a bit, the duties we had to do. I think it’s going to be positive that we’re going to see a reduction from 36 grants to 15 grants. That’s going to mean less time allocated to filling out your required paper work and more time with what we’re here for and that’s delivering services to students.”
Highlights of the model include ensuring funds are directed to classrooms by providing a targeted grant for system administration, instead of a percentage of overall funding, protect the most vulnerable students by providing funding intended to support specialized learning needs or groups of students who may require additional supports from school authorities .
Better managing system growth specifically enrollment and associated cost, funding predictability for school authorities by confirming their funding commitments from the province by the end of March each year.
Lastly, enhancing system accountability where school divisions will be more accountable for student outcomes, community engagement and continous improvement.
Each school division will know what funding they will receive in the tabled provincial budget on Feb. 27