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Apr 15

Chris Smeaton

Budget 2015

Those who know me well understand that I’m more of a glass half full than half empty person but, I also tend to shoot from the hip as much as possible. So in giving this update I hope to stay true to both of those qualities.

I’ll begin by recognizing the government for three positives in the education budget. First, I applaud their commitment to funding the negotiated settlement with teaching staff.  This contract was fairly negotiated between the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Teachers’ Association and as such, needs to be honoured.  The government’s move to ensure that no front line teaching position can be eliminated unless a decrease in enrolment is also a positive step. We all fully understand the importance of having teachers in our classrooms, building strong relationships with students and providing face to face instruction. And finally, the continued commitment to addressing the infrastructure needs in the province is noteworthy. For a division like ours, that is constantly growing and with limited to no space available, our modernization project in Pincher Creek, our new elementary school in Lethbridge and hopefully the release of full funding for our project is Taber is welcomed news.  The province is expected to grow by approximately 90,000 people per year and to adequately support that growth, infrastructure needs to continue to be a priority!

And now for those old enough to remember legendary radio personality Paul Harvey, “The rest of the story!” Although I’ve heard that the budget could have been worse or the cuts weren’t as deep as they could have been, quite frankly I’m disappointed by those comments. It sounds to me that children, our future leaders are being considered as second class citizens! Regardless of whether a barrel of oil is selling for $45.00 or $120.00, education must always be a funded as a priority! Interestingly, since beginning in education in 1985, I’ve yet to say, “You know, I think we have enough money in education.” That’s quite a sad statement in itself!

Below I’ve listed some of the major impacts of this budget to our system as well as the implications of funding cuts on the 2015/16 operating budget.

  • Holy Spirit is expected to grow by 3.12% or about 150 students next year. The provincial government budget will provide NO funding for enrolment growth! In other words, we will have 150 more students in our system without receiving ANY funding for ANY of them! The decision not to fund student growth will result in a funding shortfall of $1.014 million. The impact is very simple- larger class sizes and less support for students!
  • The Board of Trustees have been excellent stewards of finances over the years. They have always been wise at how money is spent to both support today’s students and save a little for a “rainy” day. Good budgeting always suggests that you put away for a rainy day… well it is pouring right now! We have used a limited amount of reserves to balance previous budgets to ensure high quality learning continues in the system. This is a normal procedure for many school divisions across the province and in the past, required no formal approval to use those reserves. This year however, the use of school division reserves requires Ministerial approval, and can only be requested after a balanced budget is submitted. Furthermore, reserves are expected to be approved for only non-operational and one-time only expenditures. In other words, we are anticipating that reserves to support staffing costs WILL NOT BE APPROVED!
  • Here are the anticipated decreases in funding for our division:
    • Funding for First Nations, Metis and Inuit (FNMI) students will decrease by 3.1% or $18,000
    • English Language Learners (ELL) funding will decrease by 3.1% or $27,000
    • Inclusive Education funding will decrease by 1.9% or $137,000
    • Outreach programs will be cut by 3.1% or $4000
    • The grants for transportation will decrease by 1.4% or $40,000
    • Plant Operations and Maintenance funding will decrease by 3.1% or $118,000
    • Socio Economic Status funding will decrease by 3.1% or $16,000
    • Equity of Opportunity grants will decrease by 3.1% or $19,000
    • Early Learning Program Unit Funding will decrease by 3.1% or $54,000
    • Further reductions in administration spending of $4000
    • Although the base funding rate for teachers will increase by 2%, the rate for non-teaching staff will decrease by 3.1% or $98,000
  • The shortfall in funding from the government is expected to be $1,549,000.
  • Normal cost escalation like utilities, licensing, and insurance will be approximately an additional $500,000.

Budget 2015 is not a favourable budget for education and without any flexibility permitted, some very tough decisions will need to be made. While I’ve never said we have enough money in education, this year’s budget is the worst I’ve faced during my time in education. It is not good for students and therefore, it is not good for our future as Albertans!

13 comments

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  1. Sandra

    Great demonstration on how the cuts will affect the division – this needs to e sent home to every parent.

  2. Parents of Stop the Education Cuts

    Thank you for bringing the real issues of how the education cuts are going to impact all of the students. We are a concerned group of parents uniting together to share how the funding cuts will affect our children, especially the most vulnerable. Feel free to share our website http://www.bethevoiceab.com with any concerned parents, also we can be found on FB “Stop the Education Cuts – Be the Voice for our Children.” Twitter following @bethevoiceab

    We support our schools, teachers, educational assistants and all staff. Let’s voice our opinion together!

  3. Karen Lloyd

    As a School Parent leader in Calgary, I’m deeply concerned about the budget for education this year. Some say that it is only our board that is having issues. I know, by working with schools in the Province of Alberta with ASCA, that this is not the case. We are looking at a very bleak picture for our students. This is not okay! We will be paying hard cash for it too as cracks widen and more students slip through. It averages out to at least $7500.00/yr of tax money that is spent for every single person who does not graduate from high school every year of their life from that point on!!

  4. Dana Laliberte

    Excellent points, Chris. What we can all do is not vote Conservative or Wild Rose

  5. Dexter Durfey

    Chris,

    What about grid move will not increase your shortfall even more?

  6. Terri

    Something to think about!

  7. Colin Desnoyers

    Great points and message. Your post is catching lots of traction on FB as well. It is being shared over and over and over again. Great job!

  8. Beth

    As a parent of 2 boys that are set to start school in September, I am deeply concerned about our education system. My boys have attended a speech program and made great strides to improve and be on par for this upcoming year. Due to cut backs on the full day kindergarten and the lack of transportation provided for our children that will now be half day, my children may miss out on a vital year of school. All the progress and steps taken to get them ready will be for nothing. I work full time and so does my husband, so we are currently struggling to find any means to get my boys home from school during the day. The cost of daycares is outrageous and most no longer provided half day.

    I have written a letter and unfortunately the transportation department is also unable to help out. At what point does it make sense to cut full day kindergarten and then provide no bussing to the kids? There will continue to be bussing for full day students but our smallest group has no mid day service. My only hope is that enough parents, family and friends come together so that our voices can be heard. These children are our future leaders, future politicians and future assets to society. When will they stop taken from the ones that have no voice

  9. Sandi Oelhaupl

    This is a great breakdown on how cuts to education impact children. Especially the ones who require additional supports, such as special education and early intervention! Priorities really need to change, the innocent victims of this budget are really Alberta’s Children!

  10. Michele M

    I am deeply saddened and in mourning for children who are not valued by this government. I pray to anyone please do not vote PC as a vote for PC is a vote against children, education and a future of informed and educated citizens. No more PC

  11. Annon teacher

    The sense of entitlement by the PC party has gone on for a loooooong time. Unfortunately, there are lots of voters who still say ” I have always checked their box and will continue to do so!” From my standpoint, I think several of those people are just afraid of change. The Superintendent has listed the cuts to be made in his division, and it will be the same throughout the province. I hope people take a close look at their choice this time.
    I will obviously not vote PC, but I am not giving away my choice. It is to the point that any change will be welcomed!!!

  12. sandy morton

    As a first year retired teacher I am sad to hear that cuts continue! I really don’t feel that education has ever been a priority in this province. Teachers have been very willing to take 0% for three years to ensure that they had jobs to help kids!! I wonder if the leaders of our province would be willing to do the same? Maybe some of the money that has been carelessly spent on trivial self serving could be repaid to the education sector????The future of our country will be in the hands of the educated from foreign countries if we are not willing to educate our own children to the very highest standards!!!!!! I would at least like our students to have the same chance to be a part of Canada’s future as those who have been educated abroad! Our students deserve nothing but the very best! I am not trying to be politically incorrect I am just trying to be a realist.

  13. Erin Hickman

    Just a minor correction to an excellent post: the teachers’ contract that we currently are under was not negotiated, it was “agreed to” under the threat of punitive legislation.

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