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Education

New Alberta school fee rules go into effect Sept. 1; critics fear parents will end up paying more

WATCH (Aug. 31, 2019): Alberta will introduce new rules regarding school fees on Sept. 1 that could end up affecting what parents will pay for transportation. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports.

New regulations go into effect on Sept. 1 that could end up affecting how much parents will pay for school fees in Alberta.

Previous regulations under the NDP government that were introduced in 2017 removed a school board’s ability to charge families for instructional supplies or materials and transportation.

School boards were prevented from charging bus fees for students living 2.4 kilometres or more from their designated school. Under the NDP government, transportation fees were still charged to families who lived closer than the designated distance and parents who chose to enroll their child in a school other than their designated school.

READ MORE: Rising school fees necessary to provide student services: Calgary Board of Education

With the new UCP regulations, the current rules for eligibility around busing remain in effect, but the new rules reverse the over 2.4 km distance rule that allowed for free transportation.

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“School boards are still required to provide transportation for eligible students, however, they are now allowed to charge fees for busing. As always, school authorities will be accountable to their parents for the fees they choose to set,” said Colin Aitchison, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s press secretary, in a statement on Saturday.

He said school boards will not be able to charge fees for instructional materials required in classrooms, such as textbooks or paper supplies.

“We respect the autonomy of school authorities in their day-to-day decision making. Local school authorities will be accountable to parents for any fee they choose to put in place,” Aitchison said.

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The director of communication for a local education advocacy group worries about the effect the reversal in NDP rules will have on parents.

“Kids who are going to their community school that live further than 2.4 km who under Bill 1 had their busing covered are now no longer covered, so that’s going to be anywhere from an additional $300 to $750 per student for the year, which is substantial. And families who are struggling right now in this economy are going to find that to be a burden, particularly if you have more than one child in the system,” said Barb Silva with Support our Students Alberta.

READ MORE: Fee frustration remains for some Alberta parents, despite government reducing certain school fees

The NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman worries school boards will end up passing on busing costs to parents.

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“We hope that boards don’t feel they are in a position where they need to increase their transportation fees but we understand that if they’re not getting adequate funding from the government, that [is] something they might choose to do,” said Hoffman on Saturday.

Students who take Calgary Transit will be faced with higher costs this school year. Calgary Transit has increased the rate of its student bus passes to $77 per month effective September 2019.

WATCH (Sept. 2, 2019): School supplies, clothes and activities can set families back enough when it comes to the start of school. As Josh Ritchie reports, with a lack of clarity around Alberta school fees, some families are concerned for what they will see on the bill come the fall.

Lack of school fee clarity in Alberta leaving some in a tight spot
Lack of school fee clarity in Alberta leaving some in a tight spot

According to the Calgary Board of Education, information about the Calgary Transit Pass Rebate for 2019-20 will be available later this fall.

“Looking ahead, we know with the regulations coming later this fall from changes to the Education Act that there may be future changes to transportation eligibility or services levels and fees. We will keep our families informed of any impacts on student transportation,” the CBE website said.

According to the CBE, 2019-20 school fees have not been finalized and will be available this fall, once the CBE budget is approved by Alberta Education.