Future funding for schools from the provincial government – and any possible cuts – will remain a mystery until next spring as Clearview School Division officials –and their colleagues –await the provincial budget for 2010.
“I suspect we may not hear much more until the budget,” said Ken Checkel, who chairs the Clearview board which met last week with local Drumheller-Stettler MLA Jack Hayden and Battle River – Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths before Checkel and Superintendent John Bailey attended a meeting with provincial colleagues where Education Minister Dave Hancock.
During that latter meeting, the minister said nothing about funding and possible cuts, but rather updated school officials on consultations with administration to determine ways to strengthen education with restrained funding.
“We didn’t get any confirmation about cuts for 2010-2011,” said Checkel.
For this year, the government clawed back $567,606 from Clearivew’s reserves for this school year as the government projects a $4.4 billion deficit.
“We are not planning to lay off staff or cut programs for the current school year,” said Checkel.
“However, potential cuts for 2010-2011 could be more extensive and could reach $1.5 million, although we won’t really know until the provincial budget next spring.”
After the minister’s meeting, Premier Ed Stelmach reported that while the deficit may be lower, he and the government do not plan to drastically cut funding from education and health care.
“How much from education will be cut is still up in the air,” said Checkel.
When meeting with the local MLAs in Edmonton, Clearview officials were told that the government is just starting to prepare the budget that is expected to be introduced in February.
Discussing other issues with MLAs, Clearview officials were assured the government has no plans to restructure or amalgamate school divisions, an issue that is mentioned occasionally in school division and board circles.
“This would be a terrible way to operate schools,” said Checkel, considering that when the government replaced health regions and boards with Alberta Health Services board, local issues became easily ignored.
“Communities have lost control and we’re very concerned about that.”
He is not surprised with these cuts considering the economy of the province and beyond.
Late in August, Hancock announced Alberta Education’s $6.3-billion budget would be cut by $80 million this year because of the province’s ballooning deficit – more than half will come from clawbacks of school division reserves.