The province has announced that the operating expense of the education budget will be increasing by nearly $2 billion, which will in turn, allow for the hiring of approximately 3,000 education staff.
Norma Lang, the Board Chair for Rocky View Schools said that the announcement is a welcome one, considering RVS is one of the fastest-growing school divisions in the province.
"The funds provided for enrolment growth will help Rocky View Schools hire more staff to support the 1,000 new students we will welcome in the fall. Knowing additional funding will be available is positive news, as RVS continues to experience increasing enrolment pressures across the division.”
However, in a letter to parents on March 9, Lang did express profound disappointment that Budget 2023 did not address the urgent logistical needs the division faces. In her letter, Lang stated that the Board is frustrated with the decision and the challenges it creates.
"Our rapidly growing division welcomes 1,000+ more students each year. Construction funding is needed now as it takes three to four years from the initial approval to build and open a new school. The Board has advocated the government about Space for Students for several years and bolstered these efforts with a focused year-long campaign that launched in September," Lang wrote.
She added that RVS's board met with provincial and municipal governments, school councils, community leaders, families and staff to raise awareness of this urgent need.
"It is important that we continue to voice our space needs to the government to get approvals for construction funding and temporary modular classrooms in our communities."
The letter did underline that RVS was granted design funding for an elementary school in southwest Airdrie and preliminary planning funding for three other schools, including a new Airdrie high school, as well as a new Cochrane and Chestermere elementary school.
"This means additional schools in our communities remain a future hope. With school construction funding pushed into the future, we are hopeful to receive news soon that the government has approved our request for 32 modular classrooms – needed now more than ever as temporary spaces for our students."
In response to the UCP government's announcement, Sarah Hoffman, Alberta NDP Critic for Education said that the funding for enrolment is the bare minimum.
"The UCP’s record is that new kids didn’t get new funding. They cut funding for disabled students, including those who needed PUF, and they failed to build schools in growing communities. The UCP brought in a funding formula that punishes growing school jurisdictions and this year they got rid of the bridge funding that helped cushion those cuts.
According to the government, the funding increases for enrolment will be provided to school authorities through existing grants that include enrolment components.
"The Operations and Maintenance grant also includes an enrolment component. The flexible funding provided allows local authorities to make decisions on how to best use the funding to support their students," a provincial press release stated.
The Funding Manual for School Authorities 2023/24 School Year and projected operational funding profiles were released on March 9, providing school authorities with their funding information for the coming year.
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