Edmonton Journal: Edmonton Public Schools cuts funding for disability assessments, extra school support

Edmonton Public Schools is cutting funds for external assessments for students who could have learning challenges in an effort to balance its budget.

A letter sent to parents and guardians Thursday said it will also pull $1.5 million from a $7.8-million fund schools can use to bring in extra staff, equipment, resources or other help for children with additional needs, such as those with disabilities, those learning English or those who live in poverty.

Changes to bus or bus pass fees mid-year are also on the table, said the letter, signed by school board chairwoman Trisha Estabrooks and superintendent Darrel Robertson.

“This budget, although it’s a significant cut to Edmonton Public Schools, the least disruption to our students and our classrooms is the priority,” Estabrooks said in a Friday interview.

Last month’s provincial budget pledged to hold provincial education funding flat for four years. However, Alberta schools are anticipated to grow by 60,000 students during that time, leaving school boards with less money per student enrolled. Edmonton public has been growing by about 3,000 students per year.

Although trustees assumed the new United Conservative Party government might eliminate some funds, Edmonton public found itself $34.4 million short once it saw the 2019-20 budget figures.

Money held in reserve will cover most, but not all of that shortfall, Estabrooks said. School boards are not permitted to run a deficit.

Although it provided some “transition” funding while it develops a new education funding formula, the provincial government eliminated three key school funding grants totalling $428 million.

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