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The Board Connection

Provincial Budget Announcement

April 14, 2016

The provincial budget has been released containing no funding cuts to education and a three-year commitment to fund enrolment growth.

The Good News

We’ll need to take time to dig into the details but, broadly speaking, this budget contains many of the things we’ve been advocating for a number of years. There are no funding cuts to education, and we’re funded for new enrolment growth. This means that, despite a very tough economy, we’ll be able to ensure our students and staff have the resources they need to succeed.

This budget also represents the beginning of predictable, sustainable funding for education. The Board of Trustees has been asking for this for a long time and it looks like our advocacy efforts have paid off.

With the province facing a $10-billion dollar deficit, and forecasts that the price of oil will remain low well into 2017, this budget is the best we could realistically hope for in the current political and economic climate. We continue to see more students coming to Edmonton Public Schools, and this budget will allow us to preserve the high quality of education for which our District is known.

I’m glad to see we’ll not be reducing staffing levels. We’ll be able to maintain services and continue to support the maintenance workers, custodians, educational assistants, consultants, principals and teachers who work so hard every day to create positive learning environments for our students. I can think of no better place to be a student in 2016.

Seek Efficiencies

This is the best budget we could have hoped for in the current economic climate. Having said that, inflation, negotiated wage increases and the costs associated with opening new schools mean our operating costs will increase. Like everyone else in the province, we’ll have to tighten our belts.

As trustees, we’ll continue to advocate for the things our District needs: money for new and modernized schools and supports for our most vulnerable students (English language learners; newcomers from Syria and elsewhere; students with special needs; and First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students).

With the economy in rough shape and many families facing financial hardship, there will be more pressure and scrutiny than ever for us to ensure that every educational dollar is being spent with maximum efficacy.

We need to make sure our decisions are evidence-based, researched and transparent. That means no spending decision our Board approves should be taken for granted. Our decisions should be held to a very high level of scrutiny.

Increasing collaboration with other school districts and finding administrative efficiencies must be priorities. We must push the maximum resource allocation out to our schools and collaborations with other districts, like the Edmonton Student Transportation Authority (ESTA), are imperative.

Transparency

We’re committed to transparency and openness. Each school’s budget is posted on its website and we encourage you to go to your local school council meeting and get involved with the work going on in your child’s school. If there’s something that you don’t understand, please ask your principal.

We also invite you to get involved in our Results Review process and provide your feedback as to how we can improve educational outcomes in the district.

Capital projects

Details are still forthcoming, but I’m pleased to see that funding has been set aside for the construction and modernization of new schools. An economic slump is the perfect time to build new schools (labour costs are lower and the construction stimulates the economy) and we need them more than ever.

For more information about modernizations and new school construction, please read our Capital Plan and look at our top priorities.

Looking forward

Today’s budget announcement contained many of the things we’ve been advocating for. This is a budget we can work with. We must continue to play our part in preparing the citizens of tomorrow for an increasingly uncertain economic time, and initiatives like Career Pathways and our diverse range of educational programs are more important than ever.