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Alberta streamlines grants, changes formula for K-12 education funding

Click to play video 'Education funding model in Alberta changing' Education funding model in Alberta changing
WATCH ABOVE: Funding for education in Alberta is about to upended. Fewer grants will be available and the entire model will change. As Breanna Karstens-Smith reports, while the government refused to provide numbers, an Edmonton school board is worried – Feb 18, 2020

The Alberta government announced an overhaul Tuesday for education funding in the province.

Among the changes — the number of grants available to K-12 schools will be reduced from 36 to 15.

“It is just a reallocation, re-looking at the way… a reformatting of the way education is being dispersed currently,” said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, though she wouldn’t release details on how the dollar figures would compare to the former grants.

The government calls the move a way to reduce red tape for administration but did not disclose how much money it was expected to save.

LaGrange said specifics would be released in the February 27 budget.

READ MORE: Documents prove United Conservative Party cut education funding, Alberta teachers say

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According to the Edmonton Public School Board, in some cases the changes will alleviate the need to make annual submissions for grants.

“Once we identify an English language learner, we will receive funding for that English language learner for five years. That’s really positive in that people in this building won’t have to continue to fill out that paperwork,” board chair Trisha Estabrooks said.

READ MORE: ‘Absolutely devastating’: Alberta parents concerned about education support funding review

The new model also moves to what Alberta Education says is a more predictable funding method.

In the past, funding was based on enrolment numbers. At the end of September, schools would submit their enrolment numbers which would then lead to funding changes mid-year.

Now, funding will be announced with the budget each March. The calculation will be based on a moving three-year average of enrolment.

Edmonton public sees an average of 3,000 additional students each year but the new formula will not compensate them as such.

“It means that our funding will be based on the number of students that we’ve had in our classrooms in previous years. So, in essence, it’s sort of like looking in the rear-view mirror and we can never catch up,” explained Estabrooks.

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Click to play video 'Documents prove UCP cut education funding: ATA' Documents prove UCP cut education funding: ATA
Documents prove UCP cut education funding: ATA – Feb 10, 2020

NDP Education Critic and former Edmonton Public Schools trustee Sarah Hoffman said boards want more funding, not just predictable funding.

“I guess it tells you ahead of time that you don’t have enough money. I’d rather wait until the end of September and get enough money to educate every single kid.”

Previously, high schools were funded based on how many credits students took. That will change with high schools also being based on enrolment going forward with grades 10 to 12 receiving 10 per cent more money than lower grades.

READ MORE: ‘We’re one of the losers’: Alberta rural school division pens letter over UCP education cuts

Alberta Education says the changes will mean all school boards will receive more funding in 2021 than they did in the current school year.

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The Alberta Teachers’ Association had raised concerns about money for schools, saying documents show $136 million in funding has been cut this school year. The UCP has insisted funding has remained flat.

“I think it’s really shameful to come here and announce a new formula and not actually show us a formula, not show us any of the numbers, not show us what it means for individual boards,” said Hoffman.

The government met with public, separate and Francophone school divisions across the province to develop the changes.