Expanded busing, kindergarten homeschoolers to be funded in Alberta next school year IG News

Irshadgul News report,

Thousands more Alberta students will be eligible for a school bus within the next two years, as the province changes its requirements.

The province has proposed increasing next year’s school transportation funding by 24 percent from its expected spending this year, while requiring schools to offer busing to students who live close to their buildings.

Education Minister Adriana Lagrange said school boards, parents, teachers and students said the current limit of 2.4 kilometers was too far for children to walk – especially when they have to cross expressways or busy roads to get to class. Had to

“The parents were concerned for safety, as were all of us,” LaGrange said at a news conference in Calgary on Thursday.

The proposed education budget allocates approximately $421 million for student transportation in the 2023-24 school year. Primary school students who live more than one kilometer away from the school will now be eligible for a school bus. Students in Grades 7 to 12 who live more than 2 kilometers away will also be eligible for subsidized transportation.

Closeup of the front of a yellow school bus parked with red paint on a snow covered road "stop" Enhanced sign in its favor.
Students living close to school in Alberta will be eligible for subsidized school bus fares through 2024. (CBC)

The province also requires schools to provide busing for alternative programs, such as French immersion. For the first time, private schools would receive funding for transportation—70 cents per student on par with what public schools received.

Alberta Education estimates that about 47,000 students who already use the buses will now have lower fees. Officials said the schools would also need to recruit an estimated 250 more bus drivers.

This can be difficult, as school bus drivers are rare. The budget proposes more money for schools to help train new drivers.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said the proposed increases neglect to fully address the rising costs of moving students around. She said funding is not keeping up with the rising costs of insurance, fuel, staffing and schools and schools may be forced to pass those costs on to parents with higher fees.

New Kindergarten Homeschooling Pilot

Details of how Alberta schools will be funded, delivered and by how much, were made public on Thursday by the government 2023-24 School Funding Manual, It is based on a provincial budget that has not yet been approved by the Alberta legislature.

Next year, for the first time, the province will pilot funding for monitoring schools educating homeschooling parents and kindergartners. It will cost two million dollars.

Only students who are registered with and supervised by a public or private school will be eligible for kindergarten funding. The school authority would receive $901 per student, half of which would go to the family for instructional materials, such as books, software, or math equipment.

Judy Arnal, president of the Alberta Homeschooling Association, said her organization has been asking the province to fund kindergartens for years.

“We are quite thrilled with this development,” she said on Thursday. “It was a bit of a surprise to us.”

Arnall said the cost of supplies is often a barrier for people choosing homeschooling. Although kindergarten is optional in Alberta, it is included in the curriculum, and the government should emphasize its importance, Arnall said.

The government says a new $42 million fund to help with increasingly complex classrooms must be used on staff working with at least 80 per cent of the students.

If the budget passes, schools will have access to $47 million next year to adopt the new elementary school curriculum.

The proposed curriculum changes have been controversial. In response to protests from teachers, academics and parents, the province is reformulating its proposed social studies and fine arts curriculum.

New K-3 math and English language arts and K-6 physical education and wellness programs were mandated in Alberta schools this year, and some schools were piloting new science, French immersion and francophone programs.

In an interview, LaGrange said new math and English programs for grades 4 through 6 would also become mandatory next year.

Final courses in Science, Fine Arts and French are due to be released in April. LaGrange said an announcement about this, next steps for social studies, and when these new subjects will become mandatory, is coming soon.

Alberta school enrollment is expected to grow 2.5 per cent next year, and with inflation costing up, the government is pledging to increase the value of many school grants. It comes after freezing education funding for three years to rein in costs.

Hoffman said he suspects the increase will not keep pace with how much school division costs have increased during the past four years.

He said that when more students enroll, the government should at least increase the enrollment.


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