The Calgary Board of Education has revealed the impact provincial budget cuts are having on transportation for its students. The superintendent sent emails to parents Tuesday night. The change is retroactive for the 2019-20 school year.
The board is eliminating the rebates for monthly transit passes. Previously, just under $55 of the $77 monthly bus pass was rebated to students’ parents.
Trina Nagy has two children taking transit; one is in junior high, the other in high school. Without the rebate, she won’t receive about $1,600 a year.
“It’s $154 a month that we now have to pay out-of-pocket for my children just to go to and from school,” Nagy said.
Nagy is disappointed those expenses can no longer be offset.
“It’s extremely tough, not just for myself, but for a lot of families,” Nagy said. “Kids are always bringing in forms for extra things and it really adds up and it’s a huge extra burden.”
“The CBE is passing the buck and now instead of them taking responsibility as to how they are spending their money, they are passing it on to the parents.”
The CBE is also making changes to yellow school buses. Six-thousand students who were previously eligible for free transportation will now be charged $365 a year.
Board chair Marilyn Dennis said while they’ve decided to rescind layoffs for 317 temporary teachers, the future transportation budget is uncertain.
“Potentially that fee could have been much higher by using IMR (Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal grant) to mitigate the impact, because without that, the charges for that service could have been significantly higher.”
Students who require special needs transportation won’t be charged.
CBE Supt. Christopher Usih said during Tuesday’s board meeting that the decision to retroactively change busing fees was just one of the impacts of the province cutting the board’s budget by $32 million.
The Edmonton Public School Board also voted Tuesday to increase school bus fees in the wake of provincial funding cuts.
In a statement, Colin Aitcheson, a spokesperson for the education ministry said: “We respect the autonomy of school boards in their day-to-day decision-making. As always, trustees will be accountable to parents for any fee they choose to put in place.”
The Alberta government confirmed Tuesday it is still moving ahead with a financial audit and governance review of the Calgary Board of Education.