Alberta funding increase to school boards still $1.4 billion short

The province promised an additional $118 million in funding to help school boards deal with COVID-19 adjustments. Here’s why it’s still not enough.

As part of their announcement earlier this week to have Alberta elementary and high school students return to school in the autumn under near-normal conditions, the provincial government included that they’ll be increasing funding by about $120 million to school boards.

In the 2019–2020 school year, the provincial government dispersed $6.703 billion to Alberta school boards. For the 2020–2021 school year, they plan to increase that to $6.822 billion. That’s an additional $118,355,292, an increase of about 1.7%.

Expenses for all school boards in the province last year came to a combined $8.097 billion. In 2018, combined expenses were $7,965 billion. Even in 2017, total expenses were over $7 billion ($7.739 billion). If we go back to 2014, combined expenses for all school boards in the province came to $6.948 billion.

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Even with the additional 1.7% increase, the new budget funding amounts wouldn’t have even been enough to cover school board expenses throughout the province 6 years ago.

And we haven’t even touched on population growth and inflation.

In the first quarter of 2014, the population of Alberta was 4,029,951. In the first quarter of 2020, the population of Alberta was 4,413,146. That’s an increase of 383,195, or 9.5%. Even if we just look at 2019’s first quarter population of 4,335,768, that’s still a 1.8% increase over the past year.

As far as inflation goes, as of last month, Alberta’s inflation rate for 2020 sat at 1.0%, but compared to 2019, it has increased to 1.71%.

If we add the 1.8% population growth and the 1.71% inflation over the last year, we have a combined growth of 3.51%. Clearly a funding increase of only 1.7% will be insufficient to cover even just the increase in students and the increased costs to materials and services over the past year.

Let alone the $1.275 billion shortfall between last year’s combined expenses and this year’s projected funding amounts.

For reference, a 3.51% funding increase to cover population and inflation growth would bring operational funding to $6.915 billion, not $6.822 billion. Which means planned operational funding for the 2020–2021 school year is still $92 million short.

If we add the $1.275 billion shortfall, we’re left with a combined $1.368 billion that Alberta school boards should be receiving for the next school year, but aren’t.

And that’s not even counting the additional costs of having students back in school during a pandemic.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

One reply on “Alberta funding increase to school boards still $1.4 billion short”

Remember when Adriana LaGrange of the UCP cut school funding on a weekend during this pandemic, so tens of thousands of educational assistants, caretakers and bus drivers were laid off?

Schools were supposed to use this money, money they didn’t get, to fight Covid-19. So where is this money now?

Apparently Jason Kenney said in the legislature today that the NDP made those cuts. No, the UCP was in power in 2020. He also allegedly described the NDP’s proposal for school Covid safety as “cuckoo-land”. Last week the UCP MLAs broke into laughter at the idea of keeping kids safe. Now Kenney thinks the kids are like staff, and they should clean the schools. Because vocational training should start in kindergarten? Because five-year-olds do a great job sanitizing surfaces with chemicals (that they bring from home, presumably, because Kenney sure isn’t chipping in for this, because Kenney doesn’t have kids?) The premier is acting like he is five years old. Waiting to read this for myself in Hansard. Parents are angry. Teachers are angry.

Meanwhile, Dr. Hinshaw warned today about following Sweden’s example. Are we ready for a death rate 12 times higher if we do? The curve of new infections is no longer flat, with 304 new cases in three days and eight more deaths.

Parents and teachers are holding a teleconference this week.

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