As part of their announcement earlier this week to have Alberta elementary and high school students return to school in the autumn under near-normal conditions, the provincial government included that they’ll be increasing funding by about $120 million to school boards.
In the 2019–2020 school year, the provincial government dispersed $6.703 billion to Alberta school boards. For the 2020–2021 school year, they plan to increase that to $6.822 billion. That’s an additional $118,355,292, an increase of about 1.7%.
Expenses for all school boards in the province last year came to a combined $8.097 billion. In 2018, combined expenses were $7,965 billion. Even in 2017, total expenses were over $7 billion ($7.739 billion). If we go back to 2014, combined expenses for all school boards in the province came to $6.948 billion.
Even with the additional 1.7% increase, the new budget funding amounts wouldn’t have even been enough to cover school board expenses throughout the province 6 years ago.
And we haven’t even touched on population growth and inflation.
In the first quarter of 2014, the population of Alberta was 4,029,951. In the first quarter of 2020, the population of Alberta was 4,413,146. That’s an increase of 383,195, or 9.5%. Even if we just look at 2019’s first quarter population of 4,335,768, that’s still a 1.8% increase over the past year.
If we add the 1.8% population growth and the 1.71% inflation over the last year, we have a combined growth of 3.51%. Clearly a funding increase of only 1.7% will be insufficient to cover even just the increase in students and the increased costs to materials and services over the past year.
Let alone the $1.275 billion shortfall between last year’s combined expenses and this year’s projected funding amounts.
For reference, a 3.51% funding increase to cover population and inflation growth would bring operational funding to $6.915 billion, not $6.822 billion. Which means planned operational funding for the 2020–2021 school year is still $92 million short.
If we add the $1.275 billion shortfall, we’re left with a combined $1.368 billion that Alberta school boards should be receiving for the next school year, but aren’t.
And that’s not even counting the additional costs of having students back in school during a pandemic.