Gateway Gazette

ASBA President’s statement: Budget 2015/16 cuts funding for students, classrooms and schools

Alberta School Boards Association President Helen Clease issued this statement. 

Concerns are growing across this province about the budget and the impact on our students. This is not a good news budget for education in Alberta.

After years of belt tightening this budget is being called “one of the worst”.

As boards review and dig deeper the real impact of this budget is being realized.

Although this budget is being sold as having a 1.9 per cent increase it is important to look deeper. The 1.9 per cent only covers the costs of maintaining front-line teaching positions.

All other funding is cut by an average of 2.7 per cent. This means 2.7 per cent from all supports to our teachers and classrooms. These cuts will impact class sizes, special needs funding, support staff hiring and classroom resources.

We knew this would be a tough budget and school boards have been continually looking for efficiencies with least impact to classrooms. This has been the reality for many years. Now, after years of no increase to the per pupil funding grant, we have to address the issue of some students not being funded at all. Once again boards will be asked to do more with less.

2015/16 will bring approximately 12,000 new students to our schools:

  • 12,000 students with individual needs
  • 12,000 students who should be funded
  •  12,000 students who are not funded

To compound the problem there will be no new funding for at least the next three years. In three years there could be about 40,000 students not funded. How will the system ever catch up? It didn’t work in the past when we went five years without building schools. Today we are dealing with the implications of that decision.

School boards have told me they have serious concerns about how they will meet classroom demands and how they will be able to serve the unique needs of their communities. We know that every student, every classroom and every school community is unique and we need the flexibility to meet local needs.

Budget 2015/16 hinders school boards’ ability to respond to the needs of their communities. The government has frozen school board’s access to their reserves. School boards hold reserves with a view to investing in a local community priority. Under this budget, school boards cannot use these funds without getting government approval. This means the provincial government, not the local community, will have the final say about what money is spent to support your communities. Government wants to remove local decision-making.

While new schools have been announced, we will not have the money to staff and equip these schools.

We continue to hear from school boards about the impact this budget will have on students, schools and classrooms. I encourage Albertans to talk directly with your local trustee about what Budget 2015-16 will mean for your community.

School boards hoped Budget 2015-16 would protect vulnerable students; unfortunately the funding cuts mean every student is vulnerable. This budget limits the learning opportunities we can provide to Alberta students.

Every trustee in Alberta is working passionately to convince the government to reconsider lack of funding and flexibility.

Take the time to ask your local trustee/school board how this budget will affect students, classrooms and schools in your community.

Talk to your MLAs/candidates. Speak up. This is about the future of our kids.

For more information about Budget 2015-16 visit the Alberta School Boards Association website at www.asba.ab.ca/cuts-to-classrooms.

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