WHEREAS rural schools are an integral part of viable communities in rural Alberta and many schools face closure or potential closure due to low enrolment; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta’s Rural Development Strategy vision for rural Alberta is “vibrant and sustainable communities where rural and urban families, individuals, organizations, businesses and governments are vital contributors to the growth, prosperity and quality of life of Albertans”; and
WHEREAS Alberta’s Rural Development Strategy identifies rural Alberta’s traditional ties to the land and its values. It also recognize “its support for new opportunities, new ideas and new potential as rural Alberta moves forward to enjoy the full benefit of the Alberta Advantage”; and
WHEREAS Alberta’s Rural Development Strategy identifies “The four key pillars of the strategy that are essential for sustainable rural communities are: economic growth; community capacity, quality of life & infrastructure; health care; and learning & skill development”; and
WHEREAS the closure of rural schools will result in a dramatic lost to the sustainability of any rural community; and
WHEREAS rural schools are a viable part to maintain and to develop rural communities; and
WHEREAS a number of rural municipalities have invested a substantial amount of local tax dollars and senior government grants to maintain and improve the infrastructure systems of rural communities; and
WHEREAS the access to rural schools will maintain a high quality of life for rural families; and
WHEREAS the closure of rural schools will result in very significant travel time for young students which will place them in a substantial disadvantage;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to amend the school funding formulas, policies and regulations to ensure the continued equitable operation and predictable sustainable funding of Alberta’s exising rural schools;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties continue to lobby the Government of Alberta to maintain the Small Schools by Necessity Grant for the 2012 and foreseeable future budgets.
The Provincial Government appears to be sending mixed messages, in that they are encouraging municipalities to invest a significant amount of resources into our hamlets on one hand, while due to limited Provincial education funding forcing the closure of schools in rural municipalities across the province, on the other.
There is a need to secure predictable substainable provincial funding to assist with maintaining rural schools in an effort to making our communities more viable.
To be considered eligible for provincial funding under the Small Schools by Necessity (SSBN) program local schools must be a minimum of 25 kilometres apart. Should a school be under capacity and located within 25 kilometres of another school, the provincial funding is pro-rated, thus eliminating the funding stream for that particular school.
Approximately 3.5% of Westlock’s local public school board instructional funding is derived from (SSBN).
SSBN funding is part of the ‘Renewed Funding Framework’ – although it is not secured, jurisdictions have traditionally received some sort of ‘equity funding’. Unfortunately, the level of equity funding varies. In addition, when formulas are developed, they are typically calculated based on current demographic information; over time, the local demographics change which places funding pressures and challenges on the local school boards.
14-11S: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC encourage the province to revisit the school bussing transportation formula to ensure an equitable distribution of transportation funding between jurisdictions.
ER2-09F: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC strongly support locally elected school boards and request the province ensure in the new education act that:
ER1-09F: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to preserve the Small Schools by Necessity Grant.
As the Premier has indicated on several occasions, education is a top priority for the Government of Alberta (GoA). The GoA has committed to examining ways in which it can provide predictable and sustainable funding for education. As part of the Alberta Education’s mandate letter from the Premier, the ministry is working with Alberta Treasury Board and Enterprise and Alberta Finance to establish a minimum three-year funding cycle for Education. The unique considerations of rural school boards continue to be part of the discussion as the ministry reviews grants in the funding framework for school boards across the province.
Alberta’s current funding distribution model is founded on a jurisdiction profile concept. It is based on the premise that over and above the base cost of operations, jurisdictions should receive funding for significant cost factors that are beyond their control. The framework allocates funding to school authorities based on the demographic, geographic and economic environment within which services are delivered to students. School boards have maximum flexibility in determining where these funds should be spent.
In addition to the base instruction funding provided for every student, additional funding is provided to address the unique circumstances of each jurisdiction. Funding formulas are used to distribute funds that address the significant differential cost factors that are beyond the control of locally elected school boards. All of the formulas work together to provide a pool of resources that is tailored for the needs of each jurisdiction. Some formulas are directly linked to the student population that a jurisdiction serves; others recognize the unique jurisdictional and environmental factors where a school board operates. For example, the ministry knows that keeping schools open in sparsely populated rural areas is difficult, so additional funding is provided through the Small Schools by Necessity allocation. The ministry also knows that it is challenging for rural boards with sparse populations to provide student transportation services, so the rural transportation formula was enhanced.
In September 2011, the ministry also provided school boards with a Fuel Price Contingency Program that provides additional funding when the price of diesel exceeds 60 cents per litre. This program will help school jurisdictions maintain efficient service and provide for reasonable ride times for students.
The Small Schools by Necessity Grant (SSNG) was preserved and continues into the 2014-15 school year with the same funding as 2013-14. One change to note in the 2014-15 school year is that metro schools are no longer eligible for the SSNG. Metro schools include those within the Calgary Catholic School District, Calgary Board of Education, Edmonton Catholic Schools and Edmonton Public Schools.
As the government response notes, school boards have maximum flexibility in determining where their funds are spent. This includes the funding received through the SSNG. Therefore, addressing the future sustainability of rural schools may find the most success through discussions with local school boards. As such, the AAMDC has assigned this resolution a status of Accepted in Principle and will monitor the issue going forward.