Gateway Gazette

Transforming K-12 Education Funding

A new way to fund Alberta’s K-12 education system will drive more dollars to the classroom where they can deliver the best outcomes for students.

The new model streamlines operations and directs more dollars to each school division. In the 2020-21 school year, every single division will see an increase in operational funding.

The model also provides more predictability in funding by changing from one-year enrolment counts to a moving three-year average, minimizing the need for mid-year adjustments to school budgets. The move will help school divisions plan their finances well in advance of the start of the school year.

“Alberta will continue to have one of the best-funded education systems in the country. This new model will drive more money to our school divisions for use in the classroom and provides them with the flexibility they need to meet the unique needs of their students. These changes will ensure our divisions continue to be equipped to provide our students with a world-class, high quality education.” ~Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

The new model also reduces red tape and gives more flexibility to school divisions to determine how to best invest taxpayer dollars. By simplifying the number of grants to 15 from the current 36, while still maintaining education funding, school divisions will have reduced reporting obligations and more leeway to direct funding to support the needs of students.

“This government is committed to cutting unnecessary red tape by one-third to reduce costs, speed up approvals and make life better for Albertans. I am thrilled that we are updating and streamlining the K-12 funding model, while maintaining robust measures to ensure money is being directed to the classroom. School boards can now spend less time on unnecessary reporting and administration work and more time focusing on students.” ~Grant Hunter, Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction

Highlights of the new model include:

  • Ensuring funds are directed to classrooms by providing a targeted grant for system administration, instead of a percentage of overall funding. This will standardize administrative and governance spending to within a reasonable range and maximize dollars intended for classrooms. The new model will also simplify grants to reduce red-tape for school authorities.
  • Protecting our most vulnerable students by providing funding intended to support specialized learning needs or groups of students who may require additional supports from school authorities, including Program Unit Funding, funding for English as a Second Language students, French as a Second Language students, refugee students and First Nations, Métis and Inuit students.
  • Better managing system growth, specifically enrolment growth and associated costs. Instead of funding based on a student count each year calculated in the fall, the new model will adopt a weighted, moving three-year average when calculating enrolment for funding. Using a weighted moving average means school boards will no longer have to wait until they have a confirmed number of students — typically at the end of September when the school year is already underway — to determine how much funding they will have for the year. This should minimize school authorities having to adjust their revenue forecasts and/or staffing levels throughout the school year.
  • Providing funding predictability for school authorities by confirming their funding commitments from the province by the end of March each year, instead of the end of September when the school year has already begun. This will minimize the need for mid-year adjustments to budgets and staffing, create better alignment between the school year and the government’s fiscal year, and provide boards with more predictability in their planning and budgeting processes. A move to a block-funding model for small rural schools will also ensure the long-term viability of these schools where per-student funding does not provide adequate resources to properly deliver programs and services.
  • Enhancing system accountability for school jurisdictions. The new model will include new accountability measures keeping school boards accountable for student outcomes, community engagement and continuous improvement.

“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.”Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

The funding model for K-12 education has not changed in more than 15 years. The province met with each public, separate and Francophone school division, along with other system partners, in the fall of 2019 to discuss improvements to the way funding flows to school divisions. Overall, divisions wanted more predictability in their funding so they could better plan for each school year, more flexibility in how they spend provincial dollars based on their own needs in their communities, and reductions in provincial red tape.

Specific details for each grant and each school division’s funding will be available in Budget 2020, and will take effect for the 2020-21 school year.

“The College of Alberta School Superintendents recognizes the significant efforts Minister LaGrange has taken to engage with individual school authorities, the CASS Board and other education partners in the development of this new funding framework. The Minister’s willingness to listen and incorporate this feedback is clear as the new funding framework reflects a return to increased autonomy for local board decision making coupled with a reduction in the red tape school authorities have been challenged with in recent years. Finally, while we certainly recognize the fiscal challenges our province is currently experiencing, we are gratified to hear the Minister’s commitment in this budget to an increase in overall projected budget for every Alberta school authority over the previous year’s funding.”Bevan Daverne, president, College of Alberta School Superintendents

“We appreciate that the government considered input from the education system as they developed the new funding model. This new model will reduce some of the red tape associated with accessing certain grants. It will also give school boards the ability to better predict the amount of funding they will receive in future years within the new, simplified model.”

Rod Steeves, president, Association of School Business Officials of Alberta

“Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) is pleased that government consulted with us on the new assurance and funding framework. We appreciate that government has released the funding framework, as ASBA requested, in advance of the budget. This allows boards time to review and understand the implications within the context of their local realities. ASBA will work closely with school boards and government to support implementation upon release of the budget.”Lorrie Jess, president, Alberta School Boards Association

“We appreciate that Minister LaGrange has listened to our concerns and demonstrated her confidence and trust in the local autonomy of school boards to make decisions that are in the best interests of their students. While this is a complex matter that will take time for us to determine the impact on the classroom, we are optimistic that these changes will bring opportunity for our district. The reduction of red tape afforded by the new model will help reduce the complexity and workload involved in providing extensive and repetitious data, which in turn, will allow our teachers to focus on what is most important — our students.”Mary Martin, board chair, Calgary Catholic School District

“Allowing important education funding decisions at a local level is a great step forward for parents’ choice in education and the ability of local school divisions — working with parents — to ensure key priorities are met. This new funding model will provide flexibility on how school divisions provide a precise and quality education to meet the needs of the students and the communities they serve.”Clark McAskile, board chair, Fort Vermilion School Division

“We are pleased to see that Minister LaGrange has been responsive to our concerns for less red tape as well as targeted supports for small rural schools. We are also pleased to see her continued support for local board autonomy and the flexibility for our board to manage those decisions that most impact our students. We look forward to the release of the full budget details and are hopeful, even in difficult economic times, this new framework will continue to support our board as we provide high quality public education to our students.“Laurie Huntley, board chair, Golden Hills School Division

“We are pleased to see the government trust locally elected boards to make the right decisions for their students by providing us flexibility within our funding envelopes. The increased flexibility afforded by this new funding model will help us better allocate resources to address the unique needs of our students, while also cutting down on the significant red tape that was tied to the previous funding structure. We are looking forward to working with the government as this model rolls out for the 2020-21 school year.”John Lehners, board chair, Grande Prairie Public School Division

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