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Edmonton Catholic Schools cuts Kindergarten programming amid funding shortfalls

An Edmonton Catholic School sign can be seen in this undated file photo. An Edmonton Catholic School sign can be seen in this undated file photo.

The Edmonton Catholic School Division (ESCD) says thousands of students will go unfunded next year, due to millions of dollars in funding shortfalls.

The division approved its 2024-25 operating budget Wednesday, with a forecasted $14.2-million operating deficit.

To bridge the gaps, the division will pull more than $12.2 million from its accumulated surplus.

Since the 2021-22 school year, ECSD enrollment has grown by 15 per cent.

The board said schools are currently at 98 per cent utilization across the division, with 113 per cent utilization in high schools.

"We have had to make some difficult decisions in preparing this budget," said ESCD chief superintendent Lynnette Anderson. "This includes reducing the number of locations offering Kindergarten with full-day programming."

The number of schools offering 100 Voices, pre-Kindergarten programming for children with special needs, will also be reduced.

ECSD said the provincial education funding has not kept up with inflation and won't be enough to support the expected 5.7 per cent enrollment increase expected next year.

"Due to the weighted moving average formula (WMA), our funding lags our growth substantially," said trustee Terry Harris. "This current year, the calculation shows we're educating over 2,000 students who are unfunded.

"Not underfunded – unfunded."

The Edmonton Public School Board has also criticized the funding model, which launched in 2020, saying it will need to pull more than $22 million from its reserves next year.

Both divisions said they are relying on dwindling surplus dollars to support rapid enrollment growth and the rising complexity of needs in their divisions.

This year, ECSD pulled $10.1 million from its surplus. After next year's budgeted withdrawal, $22.6 million will remain.

The division said that may not be enough to continue to cover future funding shortfalls.

"Once again, this has been a challenging year for us due to the limitations of the WMA funding model," board chair Sandra Palazzo said. "It does not create the stability and predictability intended for boards like ours that are experiencing exceptional growth.

"We will continue to share this message with the province."

In a statement, Minister of Education Demetrios Nicolaides said the weighted moving average, in conjunction with the supplemental enrolment growth grant "achieves the best of both worlds."

"I'm always open to talking with our school boards and make improvements as necessary," Nicolaides said in the statement. 

The minister declined to answer questions about whether the funding model would be reconsidered or if per-student funding would be increased in future years in response to challenges facing Edmonton schools. Top Stories

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