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Edmonton Catholic School Board approves 2020-21 operating budget

Edmonton Catholic Schools makes tough budget decisions
WATCH ABOVE: The Edmonton Catholic School Board approved its operating budget for 2020/21, but with recent changes to provincial education funding some tough calls had to be made. As Sarah Komadina explains, significant cuts were made to the 100 Voices program that special needs children between the age of three and five.

The Edmonton Catholic School Board has approved an operating budget for the 2020-21 school year, but it comes with challenges.

The board approved the $521.2-million operating budget unanimously.

The biggest change will be to pre-kindergarten.

The new funding model from Alberta Education shifts funding from Early Childhood Services to kindergarten to Grade 12. This will affect 100 Voices, a program that helps children between three and five years of age with severe developmental challenges.

READ MORE: Alberta announces new funding for school maintenance, no word yet on fall return

“While the new funding model continues to fund inclusive education initiatives, there has been a shift out of Program Unit Funding (PUF) that will have a negative impact on meeting the learning needs of pre-K[indergarten] children with severe developmental disabilities or delays prior to starting kindergarten,” board chair Laura Thibert said.
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“We will continue to advocate to the provincial government for adequate funding to meet the needs of all students with severe and complex needs.”

READ MORE: Edmonton Public School Board says changes to education funding will impact students with disabilities

The program will be offered in just nine schools compared to 47 this year.

“Throughout this process, difficult decisions were made while exploring ways to maximize the dollars going into the kindergarten to Grade 12 classroom,” Thibert said.

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Edmonton Catholic Schools has also been given $30.3 million in temporary bridge funding to help the division transition to the new funding model.

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About half that amount will be given to the division next school year, and it will be completely eliminated by the 2022-23 school year.

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Enrolment will no longer be funded by the number of students registered for school, but rather on a weight moving average.

Bus fees will increase by five per cent for all students to help compensate for cost increases.

The division said 77 per cent of the budget will go to support students in the classroom, while only 2.7 per cent will be used for system administration, which is lower than the 3.15 per cent cap established by Alberta Education.

The division said it has worked to maximize dollars by bringing together two junior high Spanish bilingual programs, and also with the amalgamation of two dual-track French immersion programs to create a single-track French immersion school at Bishop Savaryn Catholic Elementary School.