WHEREAS school boards receive education funding primarily on a per student basis; and
WHEREAS rural populations are declining in some areas of Alberta; and
WHEREAS school jurisdictions with declining enrolments experience funding reductions that far exceed their ability to reasonably reduce expenses;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta supports the Alberta School Boards Association position that the Government of Alberta review the K-12 funding formula for schools and school boards.
In the fall of 2017, the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) approved the following motion:
Be it resolved that ASBA requests the Government of Alberta undertake a comprehensive review of the K-12 Funding Framework in its entirety in consultation with school boards.
To date, this review has not commenced. The majority of funding in all three “envelopes” of funding provided for education in Alberta (instruction, plant operations and maintenance, and transportation) all primarily use per-student funding as its basis.
The rural population decline throughout the province negatively impacts rural school boards, as the operational costs for rural schools is not significantly reduced despite these schools operating at far less than capacity.
The result is that rural schools and school boards are at a disadvantage in terms of receiving funding from the province, leaving the per student operational costs for rural schools to be higher than that of urban schools.
RMA has no active resolution directly related to this issue.
Alberta Education’s (AE) funding framework allocates funding to school authorities based on the demographic and geographic environment within which services are delivered to students. All of the cost formulas of the funding framework consider a number of important factors and allocation criteria that work together to provide a pool of resources tailored to the needs of each jurisdiction. This of course includes enrollment demands and trends in rural areas.
Our government has heard from Alberta’s school boards about the need to ensure education funding be equitably allocated so as to support all school communities. AE staff are happy to consult with key stakeholder groups, including the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), and take this input into consideration during the next review of the funding framework.
AE has made historic advancements over the past four years. We are fighting for what matters, like ensuring every child in Alberta gets an education that prepares them for success—whether they live in downtown Calgary or in a rural area. Our government is focused on improving classroom education for all children in every corner of Alberta by reversing planned cuts and hiring teachers, building and modernizing schools and reducing the burden of school fees for parents.
Despite the worst economic downturn in a generation, together with stakeholders like the RMA, we have committed to building and hiring not cutting and firing, putting almost 4000 new teachers and support staff into our schools. Over the past 4 years, we funded 244 school projects in every corner of the province and 169 schools have opened their doors so far, creating thousands of new student spaces and adjusting to demands from across the province.
We understand that rural schools often face unique challenges. That is why we help boards with declining enrolment through the Small Schools by Necessity and the Equity Opportunity grants.
In budget 2019, the Government of Alberta committed to reviewing and replacing the current education funding formula with a new “K-12 Assurance and Funding Framework” that will come into effect in September 2020 for the 2020-21 school year. The transition to the new Framework is based on a recommendation earlier in 2019 from the Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s Finances which called for a shift in education funding to “provide incentives for sharing services and achieving better student outcomes.” According to the Government of Alberta’s 2019-23 Fiscal Plan, the new Framework will, among other things, “assure the long-term viability of rural schools.”
Following a review of the formula and stakeholder consultations in early 2020, the Government of Alberta announced a new funding framework in February 2020, for implementation in the 2020/2021 school year.
The new model introduces a Rural Small Schools Grant, which provides rural small schools (those in rural areas or in population centres below 30,000) with guaranteed block funding based on broad enrollment categories. This provides rural small schools with greater funding certainty as annual funding will not fluctuate to the same extent as under the previous model.
The model also introduces a Geographic Grant, which provides additional funding to school jurisdictions to address unique geographic challenges such as rurality, sparsity-distance, area, and location.
Based on the completion of the review and the consideration of rural school funding in the new model, this resolution is assigned a status of Accepted.