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Province moves away from per-student funding model in education overhaul
EDMONTON -- The Alberta government is introducing a series of changes to how it funds the province's education system, including moving away from a per-student based funding model.
Instead, school grants will be determined by a weighted, three-year average that the province says will allow it to determine district funding by the spring before the start of the new school year.
The government says the changes will result in all Alberta school divisions seeing an increase in operation funding for the next school year, but isn't releasing funding details until the 2020 provincial budget is tabled on Feb. 27.
"These changes will ensure our divisions continue to be equipped to provide our students with a world-class, high quality education," Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said.
"The new model also reduces red tape and gives more flexibility to school divisions to determine how to best invest taxpayer dollars."
The number of grants to schools is being reduced from 36 to 15 though the province says school systems will all get more funding under the new plan, in part due to internal department savings channeled into the grant programs.
"School divisions will have reduced reporting obligations and more leeway to direct funding to support the needs of students," reads a release from the province.
The changes will be introduced in time for the start of the new school year next fall.
The province says the changes are the first to Alberta's funding model for Kindergarten to Grade 12 education in 15 years.
The Opposition responded shortly after the plan was announced, saying the complex overhaul disguised looming cuts.
"This minister has introduced pure chaos into our education system," said Opposition education critic Sarah Hoffman.
"In this new formula there is no money to recognize annual enrolment spikes that have been repeated in places like Edmonton and Calgary and the surrounding communities for years."
Hoffman pointed to documents the Alberta Teachers' Association obtained through a Freedom of Information request that showed a $136 million shortfall, contrary to the government's claims of a funding freeze.
She said the full impact of the changes won't be clear until the government attaches some dollar figures to its new system.
“We will know more in next week’s budget."
WEIGHTED MOVING AVERAGE
The new funding model allocates grant money to school districts through a weighted, moving average.
The formula weighs the previous school year's actual enrolment at 20 per cent, the estimated current enrolment at 30 per cent and the projected enrolment for the next school year at 50 per cent.
The resulting average student population over those three years then serves as the basis for funding projections.
“Our new funding model gives schools more of what they want – flexibility, stability and predictability," said LaGrange.
The new formula will provide school districts with a funding budget in the April before the start of classes rather than the current practice of schools getting their numbers in September.
Other changes outlined by the province include a targeted grant system for school administration, funding for specialized learning needs and an enhanced system of accountability for school jurisdictions.
Rural schools are also shifting away from a per-student model to a block-funding model in recognition of declining enrolments.