WHEREAS access to good quality education is vital for the youth of Alberta no matter where they live; and
WHEREAS recent changes in provincial grant funding to schools has not been effective in addressing the challenges of adequately funding rural and remote schools, particularly those with low enrollments; and
WHEREAS it is difficult to secure qualified professionals to deliver services in more remote areas of the province and there is an expectation for higher pay in remote locations; and
WHEREAS some rural school divisions must supply teacher housing in remote schools to attract teachers to come to their communities; and
WHEREAS large geographic areas make it much more costly to provide operational supports for education in areas such as mental health, transportation services, and facility operations; and
WHEREAS student transportation costs are constantly increasing in recent years; and
WHEREAS requiring students to travel long distances to school reduces time available for learning, extra-curricular, and non-school activities; and
WHEREAS because of distances and remote locations, it is very expensive to acquire replacement parts for repairing and maintaining school buildings and school bus fleets; and
WHEREAS many operational costs to maintain facilities associated with contracting services such as waste removal, snow removal, grounds maintenance, and building maintenance have much higher rates in rural and remote communities in the province; and
WHEREAS large increases in insurance costs over the past three years (such costs have doubled in some school districts) has further strained the operational budgets of rural schools; and
WHEREAS schools in northern parts of the province face higher utility costs associated with colder weather, longer heating seasons, and delivery costs for the utility; and
WHEREAS the federal carbon tax has added operational costs for facilities and transportation areas for school divisions;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request that the Government of Alberta engage with rural school boards and rural municipalities to develop solutions to support the sustainability of small rural schools.
Many rural areas have seen population decreases over the past 20 years. The utilization rate of many rural schools has decreased significantly. With changes to the funding formula in recent years, schools with low enrollment rates receive less operational funding even though operational costs continue to rise. In the Peace River School Division, plant operations and maintenance funding decreased based on the recently introduced Rural Small Schools Grant funding formula, which is based on the utilization rate of the schools:
|Year||Plant operations/maintenance funding|
In the same timeframe, there has been a 30% increase in the cost of janitorial supplies and significant cost increases in other areas. The total cost of services, contracts, and supplies for 10 months in the 2021-2022 year (Sept – June) are already 6% ($823,176) higher than the total for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Facing funding shortfalls, rural school divisions are forced to cut services and close schools. In some cases, it is not feasible to close a school because of distances students would need to travel to the next closest school. Communities are often devastated when their local school is closed. For example, the Nampa Public School in the Village of Nampa, within the borders of Northern Sunrise County, is being threatened with closure as the enrolment is nearing the threshold where it is not financially viable to keep the school open. If this school would close, the domino effect this would have on residents and businesses could eventually lead to the Village no longer being viable.
Since the federal carbon tax was implemented in 2018, it has added operational costs for facilities and transportation areas for school divisions without any additional funding provided or any rebates available. On April 1, 2022, the carbon tax increased to $50 per ton. At the current rate, carbon tax will cost the Peace River School Division over $200,000 in additional operating costs for the 2022-2023 school year.
The carbon tax will continue to increase in the coming years to a price of $170 per ton by 2030. It is estimated that this will add $680,000 in operational costs per year for PRSD by 2030. Without receiving additional funding or a rebate for carbon tax, school divisions will find it very difficult to continue to operate. This begs the question – if farmers raising crops are partially exempt from carbon taxes, why aren’t schools exempt? Is not the raising of our children of even more importance than raising crops?
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.