The Ministry of Education has announced a re-calculation of funding allocations for the 2011/12 school year it says will benefit vulnerable students, small school districts, and remote and rural schools.
But at Tuesday’s district board meeting, secretary-treasurer Randy Hoffman said not all of these changes will affect the Vernon School District.
“This is a recalculation of grants and the one that hopefully reaffirms our estimates,” he said. “There is no change to funding by the ministry — our primary source of funding is still based on the number of students in the district.”
In August, the Ministry of Education undertook a review of the school district funding formula and asked for input from B.C.’s boards of education. A representative committee under the B.C. School Trustees’ Association (BCSTA) identified concerns and submitted recommendations for funding formula changes under the principles of equity, predictability, stability, flexibility and transparency.
“The ministry conducts re-calculations on special needs and distributed learning enrolments in February and again in May for distributed learning which will impact our district,” said Hoffman.
Ministry funding represents about 93 per cent of total revenue to operate the district. The overall funding amount remains the same at $70,804,181.
“It’s not really the whole story, as we missed our mark by 86 students,” said Hoffman, acknowledging the work of assistant secretary-treasurer Bernie Weiss in preparing the report. “But the good news is we’re getting the same funding that we predicted.”
While the district has a number of variations on regular enrolment funding, other areas of funding include enrolment decline, which went from $126,248 to $455,166.
“This gives us a little bit of protection so if we have a significant dip in enrolment, we have some way to soften the blow,” said Hoffman.
The salary differential went from $1,915,396 to $2,255,526
“It means it tries to balance our costs of teachers against the provincial average.”
There is no change in transportation/housing and unique geographical factors, an area that has remained the same since 2002.
The holdback allocation is $944,384.
“When the province prepares its overall budget, they make enrolment guesses for September, January and May, as we do, and depending on those guesses, they will release holdback or they will keep it, so we actually gained this money, but it doesn’t stop there,” said Hoffman. “Our funding protection went from $973,412 to $8,678 largely due to the release of the holdback.
“It says you will do no worse this year than you did last year, so it’s the province’s way of keeping things balanced, and they were able to ensure that we would have the same level of funding despite the drop in enrolment.”
The two-phased implementation of full-day kindergarten in 2010-11 and 2011-12 marked the first overall provincewide increases in K-12 student enrolment since 1997-98. Ministry projections show that the trend of Grades 1-12 enrolment decline will slow over the next few years and will begin increasing by 2014.
But in Vernon, full-day kindergarten proved to be a challenge.
“We didn’t achieve the numbers we thought we would, so the drop in enrolment is mostly at the kindergarten level.”
Enhancements to existing supplements will result in more targeted funds for small districts and communities to help cover the costs of operating small, rural or remote schools.
“This doesn’t affect us, we enjoy a bit of funding because of Cherryville, but we’re not expecting a windfall,” said Hoffman.
The committee’s report also identified concerns with the continued allocation of funding protection. In the interests of providing long-term sustainable and predictable funding, those districts experiencing enrolment decline will now be protected to at least 98.5 per cent of the previous autumn’s funding level.
“What this means to us is unclear until enrolment levels out, but we’ll likely be in funding protection for awhile.
“The full impact on the district will not be known until the ministry provides districts with the rules and the cost estimates in the new year.”