On February 9, 2012, the Alberta government presented the provincial budget. After reviewing the budget with senior administration, I would like to provide some brief highlights and potential impacts to Holy Spirit.
One of the issues that the Board of Trustees and the Alberta School Boards’ Association (ASBA) sought was longer term funding. The ability to make longer term plans is critical to continually improving the education offered within our schools. The government certainly addressed this issue by providing a three year commitment. Base funding, which includes: (1) Early Childhood Services Base Instruction, (2) Base Instruction (Gr. 1-9), (3) Base Instruction (Gr. 10-12), (4) Class Size (ECS – Gr. 3) and (5) Class Size (CTS), will increase by 1% in 2012-13, 2 % in 2013-14 and 2% in 2014-15. All additional funding for differential factors and other funding will increase by 2% for the coming year.
One of the disappointments for our Division was that the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) grant, which was reduced last year by 50%, continues to be reduced by that same percentage. AISI has been a tremendous support to our classrooms in working with teachers over the past twelve years. The professional learning opportunities afforded to our teachers to enhance collaboration, differentiated instruction, assessment for learning and overall 21st Century competencies has been extremely positive. We are hopeful that flexibility within the budget will allow for continued support of these endeavors.
In October 2011, Premier Redford made a commitment to allocate $107 million back into the education system. This resulted in our Division receiving just under $667,000, which was used in its entirety to increase staffing levels. Under a new grant introduced by the government called, “Equity of Opportunity,” the Division will continue to receive this dollar amount for 2012-13. This funding, and its flexibility to best meet local needs is certainly appreciated.
The budget did not contain any announcements for new capital projects or modernizations. This is unfortunate news for St. Michael School in Pincher Creek and St. Patrick School in Taber which are currently the Board’s top priorities for modernization. The Minister is looking at alternate means to fund these projects and we are hopeful that more money for infrastructure will be forthcoming.
Lastly, a new model for allocating funding for Inclusive Education has been announced. The raw data illustrates an increase of $152,000 from the new model and $234,400 additional funding. This is substantially less than what we currently provide for our students. This is a shortfall of $737,000 for 2011-12 which is in addition to the 1.1 million shortfall in 2010-11. The move to an inclusive education system is fully supported by the Division but it must also be financially supported to ensure each and every child’s needs are met.
In keeping with a desire to be transparent by the Ministry, Alberta Education has provided a link that communicates the projected budgets for all divisions in the province. I would suggest some caution in reviewing the data as enrolment projections from the province as opposed to the division’s projections have been included which may alter this data. Our projections for enrolment are more conservative, which may have a material impact to the budget. The information for all jurisdictions can be found at: http://www.education.alberta.ca/admin/funding/2012jurisdictionfunding.aspx
There is still much work to do as we delve more closely into the details of the budget. Certainly our enrolments for 2012-13 will be a major contributing factor to our Division budget as well as our upcoming negotiations with our three employee groups. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.