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Critics blast suggestion Alberta education funding be tied to performance

Critics are calling out a proposal in the MacKinnon Report arguing some education funding for Alberta schools should be tied to performance rather than enrolment. Blake Lough reports.

Advocates fear an uneven playing field for students after the much-anticipated MacKinnon report on Alberta’s finances proposed some education funding should be tied to performance.

According to the report, the provincial government spends more than $8 billion on education for children in grades K – 12. Over the last 10 years, spending has ballooned by an average of 3.5 per cent per year.

READ MORE: Alberta panel says savings to be found in health, education changes

The report recommends reducing funding that goes toward administration and governance, and revising the funding formula to include “incentives for sharing services and achieving better outcomes for students.”

The report said there are a “number of shortcomings” with the current funding formula, which is based on enrolment.

The report stated that “linking some portion of funding to school boards achieving the strategic outcomes desired by the ministry might create more alignment across districts, promote greater collaboration and lower school board administrative costs.”

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READ MORE: MacKinnon panel report urges Alberta post-secondary schools to rely less on government funding

Support Our Students advocate Barbara Silva fears an emphasis on “strategic outcomes” will leave already struggling schools and their students in an even worse position.

“It really runs contrary to the basic premise that is public education as a whole,” Silva said.

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“It means kids living in the margins either through poverty, disability, trauma, mental health issues, are going to be left behind. Those are actually the children that public education was always supposed to help the most.”

A shift to performance-based funding is also a concern for parents like Carrie Bosinski, whose child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“His scores are always going to be lower than most children’s scores, his whole life going through school,” Bosinski said.

“This is the type of situation where this isn’t really a public school anymore. This sounds more like a privatized school.”

READ MORE: Alberta government bringing back Grade 3 standardized testing

Alberta Teachers Association president Jason Schilling said the recommendation is reminiscent of the No Child Left Behind policy that was used in the United States from 2002 to 2015. The policy held American schools accountable for student outcomes, sometimes punishing those that did not meet set academic standards.

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“We’ve had research done on that,” Schilling said. “It did not work, it failed. So we’re very cautious about bringing in failed initiatives in the United States to try in Canada.”

Touring the new St. Veronica School in Airdrie, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said the MacKinnon report was still being reviewed.

“We will just have to really evaluate them and remember that children are the focus,” she said.

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