Calgary families are set for a big break in school transportation fees next year, according to the proposed Calgary public school board budget.
The 2021-2022 Calgary Board of Education (CBE) budget will be presented to the board of trustees Tuesday. In it is the suggested 40 per cent cut to student transportations costs. CBE administration is recommending the budget be approved in advance of the May 31 provincially-imposed deadline.
In the 2020-21 school year, students living between 1.6 and 2.4 kilometres from their school were charged $800. Students living more than 2.4 kilometres from their school were asked to pay $465. Kindergarteners with half or alternating days were charged $400 per year.
The proposed 2021-2022 budget cites COVID-19 as the reason for the reduction in transportation costs.
“The global pandemic along with the volatility in the economy has created uncertainty for many families. In recognition of this, the CBE is reducing student transportation fees by 40 per cent for the 2021-22 school year; a measure that will support student access to public education during these challenging times,” the report said.
The report also said that transportation costs come from Alberta Education funding or fees charged. No instructional money is used to fund it.
Support our Students
Medeana Moussa, executive director for Support our Students (SOS) Alberta, said the reduction in bus fees is going to be significant for Calgary families.
“There’s been increases consistently over the last decade for bussing in Calgary. There has been increased pressure on a lot of families that have to travel further and further for schools” she said. “My understanding is that they’ve refunded transportation for a lot of families this year as well because of the surplus. I think there’s going to be a lot of families that breathe a sigh of relief, but it’s going to be a short-term sight of relief.”
The surplus comes from last year’s decrease in yellow bus ridership and is approximately $9 million dollars. Individuals who rode yellow busses were granted a full refund of transportation fees. The CBE website said they expected to make an announcement on next year’s fees in May.
“My understanding is that this surplus has to be spent within two years; that’s mandated by the Government of Alberta. The Ministry of Education did freeze transportation costs for this coming school year at current levels,” Moussa said.
“So, the question will be, if once things are back to normal and ridership returns to pre-pandemic levels, will families just be put back in the same position where excessive fees for getting your child to school can almost be a barrier for some families?”
Moussa said that transportation fees have always been an issue for Calgarians, and said that SOS has hopes for change in the future.
“We would like to see that families that need support, get the support and that each and every child has barrier-free access to quality education.”
Additional budget matters
Other key issues within the budget include the addition of two new grants totalling $6.4 million, with specific eligibility criterion.
“These grants provide dedicated supports to students in Kindergarten namely: Specialized support — Kindergarten severe and Specialized support — Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten moderate language delay,” the report said.
Also, the CBE elected to defer $19 million in 2020-2021 school year to reflect the student funding that was received for students that did not attend school due to COVID-19.
The revenue will be recognized in 2021-2022 as the students return.
The budget submission requires approval from CBE trustee before being submitted to the province.