Rural Alberta schools need further supports

Per student funding needs to be reviewed: study

With the continued decline of students in rural Alberta communities, the challenges in providing a sufficient education keep growing.

Whether it is having multiple grades in one class, the lack of facilities and equipment to offer certain programs, a funding shortfall to provide other services, or trials with regards to busing, the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) believes the province must to do more to ensure equitable education for students regardless of where they live.

“The ASBA believes every child deserves the opportunity to achieve their full potential, and this potential is best achieved within a strong public education system served by locally-elected school boards, whether they be metro, urban or rural,” explained ASBA president Lorrie Jess, who is also a trustee with Wolf Creek Public Schools.

The issues with rural students came out of a document produced by Alberta Education to further discussion with school divisions and other partners on determining the outline for a 2019-2022 business plan and priorities.

One of the biggest topics that needs to be addressed, according to the ASBA, is the current funding model of funding school on a per student basis.

“Alberta Education should undertake a comprehensive review of its funding framework — in consultation with school boards — to ensure dollars for public, separate and francophone school students in Alberta are distributed equitably and fairly,” Jess stated.

In response, Alberta Education Minister David Eggen noted that everyone deserves equitable access to education.

“Our Government values Alberta’s small and rural communities and recognizes the importance of equitable access to education, regardless of location,” Eggen said.

Funding is allocated to school authorities based on certain information.

“The funding allocation takes into account that rural school authorities often face unique challenges beyond their control, such as declining enrolment, long distances and the operation of small schools.”

Meanwhile, Jess added that small, rural schools are crucial to the areas they serve, and without them, there would be greater costs for transportation.

“(These) schools, strategically located in their communities, are an important component of the social infrastructure that is necessary to achieve economic diversification, spur growth in Alberta’s agriculture industry and improve the quality of life in rural Alberta,” she noted.

One way the government could help school boards is by excluding these small schools when measuring a division’s student occupancy rate.

Another challenge is busing for these small schools and the ASBA feels each division should be treated fairly and equitably in its funding.

“Funding should not be reduced for jurisdictions with declining numbers of students transported, but who have fixed transportation costs,” Jess stated.

“The provincial government should undertake a comprehensive independent review of the student transportation system to ensure that all boards are fairly and equitably funded for student transportation.”

Jess added that rural students should have access to the specialized programs in nearby schools, without being restricted to courses requiring special facilities and equipment.

Meanwhile, Harvey added the current busing model does recognize sparse rural populations and that the government is working on funding alternative learning strategies with a focus on ensuring students have no barriers in core learning.

Just Posted

Let the Games begin!

Team Alberta takes home gold and silver in speed skating on day one

WATCH: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

Athletes’ medals unveiled at the official kick-off of 2019 Canada Winter Games

Medals depict Central Alberta landscape and pay tribute to First Nations

WATCH: Canada Winter Games are finally here

Final leg of torch relay kicked off at Fort Normandeau

Red Deer man loses car after being caught twice driving with suspended licence

The Ponoka Integrated Traffic Unit ticketed the man in December and on Valentine’s Day

Trudeau’s principal secretary, Gerald Butts, resigns amid SNC-Lavalin furor

Butts categorically denies the accusation that he or anyone else in the PMO improperly pressured former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls for public inquiry over SNC-Lavalin questions

Vancouver member of Parliament Jody Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet last week

Body found after apparent house explosion in Calgary, police investigating

Sgt. Dwayne Lepchuk declined to say whose remains were found

Canadian airlines waiting for guidance from Ottawa over X gender option

Major U.S. airlines said they will change their process so passengers can identify themselves along non-binary lines

Deported B.C. man who came to Canada as a baby granted chance at return

Len Van Heest was deported to the Netherlands in 2017

Sex abuse survivors to meet with Vatican summit organizers

Pope Francis has urged participants to meet with abuse victims before they came to Rome

Ex-FBI official: ‘Crime may have been committed’ by Trump

Andrew McCabe said FBI had good reason to open a counterintelligence investigation into whether Trump was in league with Russia

Most Read