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October 25, 2007

Retroactive Education Funding Cuts

You can't find one word on the Ministry of Education's website about the October 18th email sent to school districts informing them that the Campbell government is, without consultation, changing the funding formula retroactive to the beginning of the school year. The Ministry that issues news releases for the slightest thing that makes the government look good has hidden information from the public about its changes to base funding for grades 10-12.

NDP Education Critic David Cubberley broke the news that the government is cancelling the base funding for students taking fewer than 8 courses in grades 10, 11 and 12. Cubberley estimates that the impact of the change could be as much as $50 million province-wide, but when he raised the issue in question period all Education Minister Shirley Bond could say was: "Every dollar that we committed in the budget will go to education in the province." She didn't say where the dollars that will be cut from needy school districts will be reallocated. School districts now have yet another hole in their budgets.

In March 2007 the Ministry made a 42 page "Operating Grants Manual" available to explain the "simplified funding formula". It stated that the Ministry of Education would make a total of $4.3449 billion available to school boards for operating grants in the 2007/08 school year, an increase of 2.66% over the 2006/07 school year. It also stated that some changes would be made, but it gave no hint that the Ministry's definition of full-time-equivalent (FTE) students would change. The policy on the Ministry's website dated as being in effect since March 2002 gives this definition:

"Definition - "School age student FTE:" Calculated based on 8 courses being one FTE (full time equivalent.) Each full course (four credits) is funded as 0.125 of an FTE, up to 8 courses. A base minimum of 0.5 FTE is provided for secondary school age (non-graduated) students."

Cubberley's revelation, confirmed by Bond's response in question period, is that the "base minimum of 0.5 FTE" is being eliminated retroactively, creating uncertainty for school boards. So much for the Campbell government's promise of funding stability.


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