By Kevin J Sabo For the Independent
Clearview Public Schools is beginning to review the allocation model for school funding.
Clearview Superintendent Peter Barron is prompting the trustees of Clearview Public Schools to begin reviewing the model now before the government changes the model on them.
“There is an inevitable shift in the funding model coming,” said Barron.
With the deficits that the current NDP government are running and potential United Conservative Party government coming in the spring, the trustees are concerned that they could start seeing their budgets being cut as a first step in balancing the province’s books.
In his presentation to the trustees, Barron outlined five key elements that the trustees are going to have to consider in the coming years. The first element he discussed is the transparency of government.
The current funding model the board uses and the decisions they make are based on transparency.
“Transparency is the foundation to trust,” said Barron. “Any new model needs to be transparent.”
Fairness and equity are the second key element.
“The current model can be described as fair as the money is shared amongst the schools,” said Barron.
The current model, which funds the schools of Clearview Public Schools, does provide some level of fairness, granting each school funding based on the Alberta Government model that provides money per student based on enrolment. Even this system is not perfect, as there are some levels of unfairness in the current system. This unfairness can be seen in Stettler with the full-day Kindergarten where the board allocates funds over and above what the province does so that the class can run. Under the current model, the government only funds Kindergarten for half days, and Clearview pays for the rest.
The third element of the allocation model review that Barron discussed is efficient value for dollars. Clearview, with a budget of $34 million, funds 23 schools in the region (10public schools, 10 colony schools, and 3 outreach schools, totalling over 2300 students).
“Do we sometimes waste money in Clearview?’ asked Barron. “Yes”
While agreeing with the statement, Trustee Kim Smyth said, “In the grand scheme of things, our principals have been very conservative with what they are doing.”
The board has been actively looking for ways to increasing resource sharing and reducing the duplication of services where possible, such as Theresetta School and Gus Wetter School in Castor sharing bus services.
The fourth element Barron discussed during the meeting is finding a funding model that promotes the school system philosophy. Fiscally, the philosophy of the school board focuses on “equity” instead of “equality,” trying to create a similar experience at all the schools for all the students.
The final key element Barron presented to the trustees is that the board needs to protect itself from risk. Now, this is done by keeping significant reserves in the schools. However, Barron noted that the board will be required to respond strategically if significant cuts do materialize from the province. One of the biggest cost savings that could be developed is a more centralized system.
Barron concluded his presentation by saying that whichever direction the board chooses to go with this discussion, any significant changes must be made with transparency. In a motion made by Vice-Chair Guy Neitz, the board will be forming an Ad Hoc financial review committee made up of all trustees.
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