By Cole Parkinson
With a recommendation within the recently released MacKinnon Report suggesting cuts to public education, the Horizon School Division is preparing for the possibility in the near future.
The MacKinnon Report, or Blue Ribbon Panel report, was led by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon to examine Alberta’s finances and 26 overall recommendations around education, health, the public sector, capital spending, program review, enhancing Alberta’s competitiveness and balancing the budget.
Two recommendations were focused around public school funding and they stated to “decrease the percentage of government funding that goes to K-12 administration and governance (currently 25 per cent) to a level comparable to British Columbia (17 per cent) and to “completely review and revise the current K-12 education funding formula to ensure enrolment growth is addressed and provide incentives for sharing services and achieving better education outcomes for students.”
“When people look at the Blue Ribbon Panel there is a misunderstanding as to what makes up the 25 per cent and there is a sense that Education is top-heavy as opposed to other provinces, which is not the case,” said Wilco Tymensen, superintendent of schools for Horizon. “The Blue Ribbon Panel grouped all ‘instructional dollars’, dollars within the classroom and determined that it is 75 per cent and everything else is considered administration and governance (25 per cent). That 25 per cent includes transporting students to school, heating and maintaining schools and classrooms, external services for students such as counselling and board and system administration. The Alberta School Board Association has looked at the two provinces and within Alberta, only three per cent of the 25 per cent is actually spent on school administration and board governance in 2017-2018, for instance. In B.C. school administration and board governance is 3.9 per cent of the 17 per cent. While education is about three per cent board and system admin, I believe municipalities are typically at least twice that.”
Tymensen also highlighted that Horizon has an efficiency when it comes to the amount of money being spent by the board and system administration.
With this extra savings within the allocation, the division can supplement schools further but if changes are made they wouldn’t be able to continue.
“Alberta has a maximum allocation that school boards are allowed to spend on board and system administration. Within Horizon, we are about $250,000 below that maximum. We transfer this allocation to schools. If the province further lowers the maximum, it would not necessarily impact us given that we are below the cap,” said Tymensen.
He also pointed out the comparison between B.C. and Alberta education wasn’t entirely even.
“It is also important to recognize that within Alberta we have a transportation mandate, we bus kids if they live more than 2.4 kilometres from school. No such mandate exists in B.C. In fact, there are kids who live 4.8 kilometres from school and parents are responsible for transporting their children to school.”