Ponoka — Wolf Creek Public Schools is faced with a tough new reality, and a $1.8 million educational funding shortfall, following changes released in the Alberta budget, Oct. 24.
Alberta Education’s budget removes key grant funding to school divisions that is used to support students and teachers in the classroom, specifically the Classroom Improvement Fund, School Fee Reduction Funding and Class Size Funding. Although there is a new one-time transitional fund in place to replace the loss of these grants, it doesn’t cover the shortfall that comes with their removal. This represents a $250 per Wolf Creek student reduction.
“We knew that this was going to be a tough budget, but this provincial education budget creates a significant and severe shortfall in funding for Wolf Creek Public Schools,” said Pam Hansen, WCPS Board Chair. “We understand the desire for fiscal restraint, but to have this change in funding, and have it come during the school year, is extremely disappointing.”
“The UCP government promised that education funding would be maintained or increased, yet this budget clearly imposes a significant funding reduction to Alberta Public School jurisdictions. Wolf Creek educators, teachers and support staff, who are amongst the best in the province, have struggled to fill the gaps left by inadequate government funding for several years. This budget will make it impossible to do so any longer. Students, our most precious resource, will suffer as a result,” said Michael Doll, Wolf Creek Teachers’ ATA Local #3 President.
Additionally, but unrelated to the provincial budget, many Alberta school divisions, including WCPS, have been forced to switch insurers this school year. For WCPS this amounts to an additional $1 million in premium payments this year. The provincial funding changes and the higher premiums create a total combined $3 million shortfall in the Division’s $90 million budget.
The Board met Nov.1 to review the budget with a focus on seeking all possible solutions to honour the funding commitments made in the spring, 2019-2020 preliminary budget, despite the shortfall created by the provincial budget announcement. To that end, the Board approved the use of operational and capital reserves to fully address the $3 million deficit. This decision includes spending down Board reserves that were earmarked for capital purchases such as replacing buses, school equipment, and technology replacement. This creates concerns with the sustainability of capital replacements.
Additionally, senior administration has been directed to undertake a complete review of operations to find further efficiencies in preparation for the spring, 2020 provincial budget.
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