ATA News

School boards speak out on funding failures

Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. My dog Olive gets this. And, typically, so do school boards.

Sometimes they get it too well. In my years of watching education, I can tell you it is quite rare for many school boards to speak out about funding levels — even when they should.

However, as school boards prepare their budgets for September 2024, we are hearing them use some stronger-than-usual language.

“This level of funding provided by the province falls substantially short of meeting the needs of our students,” said Calgary Catholic board chair Shannon Cook in a recent news conference.

A growing number of school boards in the two metropolitan areas are calling out the Weighted Moving Average (WMA) for leaving kids behind, and the boards are putting numbers to it.

“Due to the weighted moving average formula (WMA), our funding lags our growth substantially,” said Edmonton Catholic trustee Terry Harris to CTV News. “This current year, the calculation shows we’re educating over 2,000 students who are unfunded.

“Not underfunded — unfunded.”

If we don’t receive relief ASAP, we will hit a wall and be in crisis mode.

Calgary Catholic says 1,500 students will be unfunded next year because of the WMA. For Edmonton Public, that number is 4,000.

The Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) recently published a report that shows, as a result of the WMA, the funding shortfall over the past 5 years has totaled $118.5 million, which amounts to an average of 2,200 unfunded students each year.

“Something needs to change,” EPSB superintendent Darrel Robertson said to CBC News. “I think that we can all agree that we must prioritize the future of children across the province.”

“I still have massive fears that if we keep getting told we receive less, we won’t be able to meet the needs of all who come to us,” said Calgary Public chair Laura Hack during budget debate. 

“If we don’t receive relief ASAP, we will hit a wall and be in crisis mode.”
Even some smaller and rural boards are starting to speak out.

“It’s a difficult time,” Aspen View chair Candyce Nikipelo said in a news release. “We don’t foresee relief in this, when we project what our enrolments are going to be coming in the next few years.”

I think the resolve of school boards to speak out more on the underfunding of public education is a testament to how bad things have gotten in schools.

After years of underfunding, we can’t wait any longer for the government to start listening to teachers and trustees and begin funding public education better.

I’ll give the last words to Laura Hack. “Students deserve better, families deserve better and Calgarians deserve to be part of this Alberta advantage now.”

A personal note

This will be my last ATA News editorial for a little while. Rest assured that while my absence two years ago was health related, this one is not. I am taking an educational leave and hitting the books for a bit. I look forward to talking to you again real soon.

Have a great summer. Enjoy the rest. ❚

Jonathan Teghtmeyer
Jonathan Teghtmeyer

ATA News Editor-In-Chief