The Financial Impact of Education Cuts- initial thoughts

Last spring I made the following request to our administration with regard to the budget implications of potential funding cuts. Harmful rhetoric has been circulating from political parties, corporate think tanks, and candidates for public office. I asked about the impact these cuts may have on the district, and what would the impact be if the rhetoric became reality. The response is posted here.

TRUSTEE REQUEST FOR INFORMATION: In reference to the 2018-2019 Distribution of Funds report: That Administration provide a report outlining the impact to schools, staffing and the educational experience if the District:
- was not funded for per capital student growth
- had a hiring freeze and were not permitted to staff retirements
- were faced with a three per cent decrease to the budget for the next four years
- were faced with a five per cent decrease to the budget for the next four years

The short answer to this bleak scenario? I look to UCP MLA Dave Hanson who was quite candid about education cuts at a local candidate forum: "I’m sorry to tell you, but it’s going to hurt. Will it affect you? It absolutely will,” current MLA Dave Hanson said.

Well, at least he was honest. No school would be spared. Neither would frontline staff in your classroom. The teachers, support staff, custodians, and maintenance workers your youngster depends on.

While I was provided the EPSB ledger, I expect the drastic cuts would look the same across any one of the province’s 61 school boards. Due to declining enrolment and populations in rural communities, I expect the impact on students would look even worse.

Aside from potentially thousands of job losses across Alberta, there would be a devastating impact to students and student achievement. Every dollar in education contributes to supporting students and what they need to be successful in our schools. Appropriate class sizes. Supports for special needs students. Enrichment programs and activities for students who need to be challenged. Specialized supports for the students who are falling behind. School boards are struggling with enrollment growth, classroom complexity and diversity of students. When I talk to parents and teachers, it is clear that more funding is needed for public education, not less.

Over the last decade, we’ve barely recovered from the Klein cutbacks of the 1990s. Recently I heard about a school that is asking parents to use fundraising money to pay for a bike rack for kids to bike to school. Large class sizes are but one symptom of underfunding.

Education cuts now would be devastating. If we want to actually make things better for our students, staff, and families, it is time for investment, not cutbacks. Per Capita Growth funding only provides a school the same funding for the same inadequate status quo in the face of increasing complexity and challenges.

As a Trustee, I would not be doing my job effectively if I didn’t highlight the investment in the future of our prosperity that is an excellent public education system. The deferred maintenance bubble looming shows it isn’t just our classrooms, but also our physical school buildings in need of reinvestment.

Let’s stop talking about how to make it worse, let’s start talking about how to make it better. We need quality improvement in class sizes, diversity/high needs classroom support, early learning (junior and senior Kindergarten) and more mental health supports.

Read the report (link). What do you think?

Some quick initial thoughts:
The information and analysis provide clear and specific insights into the potential effects around funding (or not) for growth, and increased cost of living, as well as for various kinds of potential direct cuts.

  • In the face of uncertain funding, how do we make headway towards reducing class sizes? How do we make headway on the auditor general recommendations? How do we live inclusion better?
  • We need to focus our advocacy on why these improvements are absolutely essential to student success, well-being, and why (and how) we should pay for them.
  • If political parties say "we can't afford them" then we need to give people the tools to help effectively demand these changes from MLAs, candidates, and parties. Ideally, all political parties' platforms contain a commitment to invest more in public education.

As supporters of students, what should we do? Please send me an email (michael@michaeljanz.ca) and let me know how we can work together to continue to invest in a public education system we can all be proud of.

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