Lethbridge School District Reacts to Provincial Budget

Lethbridge School District No. 51 is in the process of conducting a detailed review of the Provincial budget released yesterday and its impact on the District, The preliminary review leads to the conclusion that there will be substantial challenges.

The District was expecting some restraints relative to the Government of Alberta’s 2015/16 Budget given the fiscal situation of the province, but is disappointed in the manner in which the restraints are structured.

With an emphasis placed on maintaining front line teachers at the current level, the Budget announcement gives the impression that there will not be a significant impact on students in the classroom, however after initial review, the impact will be significant.

The decision by the province to not fund enrollment growth is the most impactful on the District. This will result in no funding to hire staff and provide support for a growing student population.

For Lethbridge School District No. 51, a significant enrollment increase in students grade 1 to 5 will not be funded translating into underfunding of over 1.5 million dollars. Without revenue to support increased enrollment, class sizes in the early years will grow, making it difficult to serve the needs of our youngest learners.

While Lethbridge School District is pleased that there is a commitment to keep the same number of teachers, this decision fails to recognize that new students need teachers too. Students also need other staff classifications that support students in schools. With cuts ranging from 1.9% to 3.1%, areas such as inclusive learning and differentiated funding, reductions in support staff, services, and resources will result.

Another area of concern is funding for plant operations and maintenance, which will see a reduction of $230,000 in a budget that was already underfunded by over $300,000.

New to the budget process is the requirement that Boards get Ministerial approval for using any reserve funds to balance the budget.

“The whole idea of having to have Ministerial approval for using operating reserves is contrary to the tone of the new Education Act,” said Board Chair, Mich Forster. “Instead of giving more local autonomy to boards, it's actually taking away decisions that we have previously had.”

“Our board has always managed our finances within the allocations given -- sometimes using reserves -- and has always been responsible in doing so, ” added Forster.

Lethbridge School District No. 51 has already started the process of carefully assessing all costs. The District is committed to providing a quality education to all students within the resources provided.


For more information:
Brad Young, Communication Officer, Lethbridge School District No. 51
Tel: (403) 380-7396, Cell: (403) 330-7790,
E-mail: brad.young@lethsd.ab.ca