News / Calgary

Calgary Board of Education trustees express continued anguish over Bill 1 while passing budget

CBE trustees raised concerns over a lack of consultation from the government regarding Bill 1 and the difficulties they've had with transportation funding

CBE trustee Julie Hrdlicka's motion to return yellow school bus service to five alternative schools that are moving to transit next year was denied, despite understanding of frustration from fellow trustees.

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CBE trustee Julie Hrdlicka's motion to return yellow school bus service to five alternative schools that are moving to transit next year was denied, despite understanding of frustration from fellow trustees.

The Calgary Board of Education passed their 2017-18 budget on Tuesday—but not without debate and concerns raised around transportation and the province's Bill 1. 

Julie Hrdlicka, trustee for Wards 11 and 13 moved to amend the budget, returning yellow school bus service to five alternative schools that are moving to non-dedicated transit, for one year by dipping into the CBE’s $30 million reserves. 

Administration told the trustees in a “rough approximation” that providing yellow bus transportation to these five schools would cost in the neighbourhood of $3.5 million. 

While Hrdlicka’s fellow trustees empathized with the situation, they refused to dip into reserves knowing that both parents and Alberta Education have said previously that they want to see those dollars spent in the classroom. 

“We were blindfolded, hands tied behind our backs and thrown under an unfunded school bus,” said trustee Pamela King, acknowledging that the situation isn’t ideal, but that she and the other trustees feel transportation wasn’t adequately funded for CBE by the Alberta government. 

Education minster David Eggen said comments like King’s “redouble the obvious need” to do the operational review of CBE administrative finances and transportation planning and funding he announced earlier this month. 

“We’ve been providing predictable and stable funding to the Calgary Board of Education in all three budgets that we’ve delivered,” he said. “Obviously there's some room for improvement, but we need to see exactly where they’re spending their money.” 

CBE board vice chair Trina Hurdman said Alberta Education isn’t taking into consideration numerous things that aren’t funded provincially and that continue to raise in price, including grid movement ($16M), software and an increase in utility and insurance prices. 

Hrdlicka said she believes this move to transit will lead to a migration from alternative programs because only those who can afford it and have flexible enough hours to transport their kids will be able to go to them. 

Further, Hrdlicka said the Alberta government didn’t consult school boards about Bill 1 – which the CBE claims is the primary reason they cannot continue to fund transportation in the same way— and that because of the tight Bill 1 timeline they haven’t been able to consult with parents either. 

“Our values are now being challenged and infringed upon. In a way I would say we’re being violated (by Bill 1),” she said. “This is not just now, this is our future and it will have a ripple affect.” 

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