The Board of Trustees works for the best interest of the CBE and its students. As part of their role the Board connects with key stakeholders and advocates the needs of the system with elected officials (MLAs and City Councillors).
Trustees have been advocating for many months for stable, predictable and adequate funding for public education, and for the Calgary Board of Education in particular.
Since the 2019-20 budget was announced, there have been some misconceptions that trustees would like to correct, or to provide further context, to provide the public with clear information on our budget situation.
Education funding has far outpaced growth and inflation
While this may have been true many years ago, provincial funding has not kept pace with growth and inflation since 2011.
The budget for school boards was maintained for the 2019-2020 school year
While the total provincial education budget was maintained, most school boards received a cut in funding. This discrepancy is because government and school board fiscal years are not aligned. The government fiscal year is from April 2019 to March 2020 while school boards’ fiscal year is from September 2019 to August 2020.
CBE and the government do not agree on how much was cut from CBE’s budget
The CBE has confirmed with Alberta Education that the CBE is projected to receive $32 million less in provincial funding for the 2019-2020 school year than it received in the 2018-19 school year.
Laying off teachers was the first and only strategy proposed by the CBE to balance the budget initially
On Nov. 14, 2019, a budget assumptions report was presented to trustees that included six strategies to balance the budget.
- Deploy central and area office staff to schools
- Reduction of funds directly allocated to schools, including eliminating “a portion of temporary positions”
- Administrative reductions to non-school based service units, including freezing discretionary spending
- Reduce capital spending
- Bus fee increase to replace the revenue lost by the $8 million fee replacement grant that was eliminated in the provincial budget
- Use of reserves
While all of these strategies were widely reported on immediately after the Nov. 14 public board meeting (see note below), the termination notices to around 300 temporary staff that occurred five days later generated much more attention.
The CBE did not let the government know about its plans to terminate teachers on temporary contracts
Government was informed that the CBE would be discussing a report on budget assumptions prior to the public meeting on Nov. 14. The report was posted publicly on the CBE website on Nov. 14. Layoff notices were announced on Nov. 19.
To exert political pressure on the government, the CBE did not attempt to correct the record that 300 teachers would be losing their jobs in January despite knowing that some of those layoffs would be rescinded. The CBE is using students and teachers as political pawns
It has never been, nor will it ever be, a strategy of this board of trustees to use the threat of front-line staff layoffs for political purposes. However, it is true that the CBE did not attempt to clarify to the public that 300 teachers would not ultimately be losing their jobs, although the CBE did try to make that clear to those given notice. This decision was made because school-based staffing decisions had not yet been finalized and the CBE did not yet know how many teachers would be impacted. Due to legislated 30-day notice requirements and not knowing which teachers would continue to be needed, all temporary teachers on full-year contracts were given notice on Nov 19. If the government had not provided for the reallocation of maintenance funding on Nov. 27, the CBE would have been able to retain only about half of these teachers. Thus, the reports that 300 temporary teachers had received notice was true.
The CBE refused help from Alberta Education
The CBE is always open to suggestions about how we can best allocate funding to support student learning. At no time has the CBE refused offers of support from Alberta Education. However, it is also true that we did not specifically request assistance from Alberta Education. Having said that, we appreciate the frequency of and open communication that exists between Alberta Education and CBE administrative staff.
The CBE should be able to cut $32 million from a $1.2 billion budget without affecting front-line staff
Over the past five years, while funding has failed to keep pace with growth and inflation, the CBE has been prioritizing front-line staff. During this time, student enrolment has increased by seven per cent, as has school-based staff. To fund this increase, non-school based staff has decreased by 18 per cent and the CBE has used a significant portion of our reserves. The mid-year nature of this funding cut also limited the number of options available to balance the budget, as contracts and services are legally committed to for the school year. Despite the use of various strategies outlined above, without the repurposing of the maintenance funding, the CBE would not have been able to balance the budget without affecting front-line staff.
All other school boards are dealing with their budget shortfalls through efficiencies
Just as the CBE has made non-school based cuts, so have other school boards. Like the CBE, some have also increased transportation fees. However, in the vast majority of cases, front-line positions are only being maintained through the use of operating reserves. The CBE is also using $10 million of operating reserves to protect teaching positions and anticipates having only around $4 million left in operating reserves at the end of the school year. A typical operating day at the CBE costs $7.7 million.
Note: Media stories from Nov. 14-15 outlining the various strategies the CBE was using to balance the budget
Budget 2019-20 Timeline
- May 14, 2019: Board was provided with a Budget Assumptions Report
- Jun. 25: Board approved Budget 2019-20 for submission to Alberta Education.
- Oct. 24: Government of Alberta issued its 2019-20 budget. That budget reduced CBE funding by $32 million.
- Nov. 14: Board was provided with an updated Budget Assumptions Report which considered strategies in response to provincial fall budget.
- Nov. 27: Minister of Education issued a communication that provided a one-time exception to the Infrastructure, Maintenance and Renewal (IMR) grant requirements provide increased operational flexibility for the 2019-20 school year and related budget.
- Dec. 2: CBE receives approval from Minister of Education to repurpose $15 million of the IMR funding grant.
- Dec. 3: Board was provided a Budget Assumptions Report Update detailing the repurposing the IMR funding grant.
- Dec. 10: Board was provided a Budget Assumptions Report Update II
Jan. 7, 2020: Board of Trustees scheduled to approve updated 2019-20 budget.
- Dec. 12: Board receives official notice of a financial and governance review from the provincial government.
Who’s My MLA?
We encourage you to share your concerns with your MLA. To find out who your MLA is, the Legislative Assembly of Alberta has a tool.
2019-20 Advocacy Efforts
Here are some documents the Board has been using to inform and support stakeholder conversations.
The Board’s advocacy activities are directed by Board policies:
Governance Policy 3.2 states that the Board advocates for the organization and the students it serves.
Governance Policy 3.3 states that the Board will Initiate and maintain constructive two-way dialogue with students, employees, parents and the citizens as a means to engage all stakeholders in the work of the Board and the organization.