Ensuring education funding reaches the classroom
Did you know?
Key facts about Calgary Board of Education (CBE) spending:
- If CBE spending on administration and school supports was on par with the ratio at the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD), over $110 million more in funding would reach CBE classrooms each year.
- An average elementary school with 650 students has $1.3 million withheld each year by the CBE for head office functions. Kept in the school, those funds could pay for an educational aide in every classroom.
- In 2015-16, out of $157 million in CBE school support spending, only $4 million went to central special needs services.
- Of the $14 million the CBE spent on rent for its downtown headquarters in 2015-16, over 70% was allocated to "other programs" instead of administration.
The 2016/17 fiscal year budget for education was $9.8 billion, including $1.9 billion for new and modernized schools, modular classrooms and maintenance. The cry for more funding is a near constant, yet no attention has been paid to determining whether existing funds are being spent wisely and in a way that provides maximum benefit to students.
School board budget documents are massive, unwieldy and difficult to digest, with little time given to Trustees or the public to read the document before budget deliberations. Bits and pieces of information on specific expenditures or appearance of uneven funding is occasionally unearthed by the media or volunteer advocates. When questioned, school boards reply that they pass their annual financial audits with flying colours. But these audits look for accounting irregularities and questionable accounting practices. Nothing is done to consider whether funds provided by the Province ever end up in the classroom.
Transparent school board budgets that provide accurate, clear, detailed and timely information are critical to allow Alberta Education and Trustees to provide oversight and to empower the public to hold school boards and the Province accountable for the allocation of public resources and the delivery of education.
Kids Come First is advocating for policy change to ensure that as much education funding as possible reaches the classroom where it helps students and teachers most. We are calling on policymakers and education leaders to:
- Develop and implement guidelines for all school boards that better articulate the requirements for how education funding is spent, including what expenses are considered valid administrative expenses.
- Require annual draft school budgets to be published publicly a minimum of ten business days in advance of budget deliberations to allow both Trustees and the public enough time for review.
- Adopt a mandatory “sunshine list” for all school boards to increase public trust. This required disclosure of compensation for top earners is already standard in other provinces.
- Reconsider the provincial funding model to ensure that funds designated for specific needs are being used for those purposes.