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