More funding needed, say school boards
Chairs and superintendents of Central Alberta school boards met with Jeff Johnson, the new minister of education, on June 19 in Red Deer to discuss various issues, including the erosion of funding for inclusive education.
Colleen Butler, chair of the Chinook’s Edge School Division, told trustees at the June 27 meeting that most of the boards have been struggling with the issue for the past few years. Boards from Wetaskiwin south to Chinook’s Edge took part in the discussion.
Butler said while the government is putting more emphasis on inclusive education, it is changing the funding formula and reducing funding.
“I think every board within our zone was losing (special needs) funding and it’s very important, so it’s a huge concern to boards that we’re losing that funding,” she said.
The funding pays for items such as educational assistants and special resources for students who need extra help in academics or those with physical disabilities.
For 2011-12, the division received $5.8 million in inclusive education funding, which is projected to jump to $6.4 million for 2012-13.
There is some confusion, however, beyond the 2012-13 year in which the ministry provides a line item for new inclusive education model funding of $4.8 million. It doesn’t specify a year, but CESD officials believe it is for the 2013-14 year, which would be a decrease in funding over the 2012-13 estimate. Zoe Cooper, spokesperson for Alberta Education, said, however, that 2013-14 estimates haven’t yet been calculated.
“Chinook’s Edge, like all school boards, will continue to have the flexibility to use that funding in the best way to support their local needs. The funding model for the new grant is intended to support the school authority in providing additional support to all students, not just students that would have previously been coded and triggered funding through their coding (for specific needs such as autism),” Cooper said.
The new grant replaces three previous grants given to students with specific needs (Early Childhood Services mild/moderate, gifted and talented, and Severe Disabilities Profile Grant), and provides support to all students who occasionally need help, not just those with specific needs, Cooper said. It was part of a three-year consultation process the government went through in which parents and others told the ministry that it was important to help all students who occasionally need help, not just those that have been identified as having specific needs.
Butler said Johnson listened to the concerns of the boards, and he now knows that the boards feel the loss of funding is a concern.
“My take was that he will look into it. Whether anything will change or not, I don’t know,” Butler said.
Cooper said because 2012-13 will be the first year for the new funding model, the ministry will be working with school divisions to help them better understand the new model and allow them the opportunity to provide feedback to make the new model more responsive to their needs.
Completion rates improving
The rate of students who completed Grade 10 to 12 in a consecutive three-year span in 2010-11 improved to 77.7 per cent, according to government statistics. That number improved from about a three-year average of 73 per cent. Those figures beat the 2010-11 provincewide rate of 74 per cent, and a three-year average rate of 71.6.
“For us, that’s a significant increase … from our three-year average, which is about 73 per cent and so we’re very proud of that. We think it just shows the care and commitment our staffs are putting forward relative to students,” said Kurt Sacher, superintendent of the division.