The Northern Lights Public Schools Board of Trustees urges voters to review the education platforms of the different political parties and consider how students will be impacted before casting their ballots in next week’s provincial election.
“Providing our students with safe learning environments and access to the resources they need is critical to ensuring they develop the skills they need to help this province prosper in the future,” said Board Chair Arlene Hrynyk.“We already do not receive adequate funding to address the needs of our students. Freezing or cutting the funding that we currently receive will have a negative impact on our students.”
Of Alberta’s 61 public, separate and francophone school boards, 75% are reporting a facilities deficit and 81% are reporting a transportation deficit. Northern Lights is experiencing deficits in both of those areas.
“Unfortunately we are not provided with adequate funding to transport students to and from school and to ensure the schools our students attend are properly maintained,” Hrynyk explained. “Instead, the Board has been forced to use money that would otherwise be used to enhance learning in our classrooms to pay for what should be basic services for students.”
Several other areas have also been unfunded or chronically underfunded for years. Locally-elected boards, like NLPS, have made decisions to offer programs or services to students because of their critical importance to student achievement and success, even when the funding received from the government is non-existent or inadequate.
For instance, for almost 20 years, Northern Lights Public Schools has offered a full-day Kindergarten program even though the government only provides funding for a half-day program.
“We want all of our students to have the best possible start they can,” said Hrynyk. “We believe this extra time in the classroom is crucial for our students to develop socially and emotionally as well as academically.”
The cost of ensuring all NLPS students have access to a full-day Kindergarten program is approximately $2.25 million on top of the funding the division receives from the government for a half-day program.
“If we received funding for a full-day Kindergarten program, that $2.25 million could be spent elsewhere in our system,” Hrynyk explained.
To continue to meet the needs of its 6,000 students, Northern Lights, like other boards across the province, needs adequate, long-term, sustainable, flexible funding.
“If we want our province to grow and prosper, we need to invest in our children. They are our future leaders,” Hrynyk said.