WCPS budget for learning supports no longer viable at current levels

New funding model necessary as intensive supported student numbers rise dramatically

A new way to fund instructional supports in Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) must be found or will be a reduction in those areas this fall.

That is the dire warning from WCPS superintendent Jayson Lovell when it comes to the education of students with the highest level of needs in the district, a population that has risen by almost 50 per cent in the past three years yet without any additional provincial funding to go with it.

“A lot of effort has been put into trying to understand what exactly our profile is, what our needs are and the supports that we provide to our students,” explained Lovell.

“The reality for us is this number represents the most important core challenge that we have as a district.”

WCPS has seen the number of both level 4 (students with the most diverse or special needs) and level 3 (students with mild to moderate diverse learning challenges) students skyrocket in the last four years with more on the way.

In the 2014-15 school year, WCPS saw 457 level 3 students and 249 level 4 students with the projections for this fall sitting at 630 and 462 respectively.

“It’s just such a dramatic increase so quickly and the challenge that we face is the funding for inclusion is block-funded.”

What that means is WCPS is given a defined amount of money for these diverse learning students based on what the province had determined as the school division’s profile.

Over the past several years, Alberta Education has provided WCPS with funding levels running from $5.3 million to the current $5.68 million for diverse learning supports, which includes educational assistants, social workers, inclusion coaches and other instructional aids.

Meanwhile, to maintain educating these high-needs students, WCPS trustees have over the years continued to top-up that funding — effectively doubling the money available for the current school year.

“We have seen very small increases in provincial funding and yet continue to have substantial increases in students that need support,” stated Lovell.

“WCPS is very fortunate that the board has, because of reserves, been able to sustain that funding and that it has always prioritized that level of budget support and they truly should be commended for that.

“However, with school divisions no longer able to compile operational reserves, it’s come to the point where — at the end of this school year — the board is projecting a $750,000 operational reserve out of a $90 million budget. That is not a lot of cushion.”

Lovell noted the board wants to maintain that amount in order to maximize what it allocates to schools, but that leaves very little wiggle room to pay for additional expense, such as needed supports for more level 3 and 4 students.

“(The) reality is right now, we are facing a scenario where WCPS are going to be reducing the overall inclusion allocation in the coming school year,” he said starkly, adding WCPS looks after 22 level 4 students that are in provincially funded group homes.

“These are students with significantly complex needs including addictions, mental health, safety concerns, multiple disabilities and require multiple specialized supports to be successful. That’s an example where these students have arrived and there is no additional funding to support them in our system. We’ve had to manage that within our profile and that has been incredibly challenging and well been the scope of what we can provide.”

Lovell noted the board is well aware of the looming situation and will soon be discussing the 2018-19 budget. However, he added there is no question that cuts to services for high-need students will be included.

WCPS has been working behind the scenes on trying to convince Alberta Education to either provide more money or tweak the funding model to be more representative of what the school division is facing.

However, Lovell added there has been nothing substantive done since.

Just Posted

Thurber Raiders snatch season opener from the Lacombe Rams

Red Deer game saw 44-8 win for the Raiders

City crews clean up Lacombe yard

Loads of debris were taken out of the residence property on Sept. 21st

Wolf Creek Schools raises Treaty 6 flag for first time

Chiefs, school officials took part in a ceremony that is aimed at acknowledging Treaty 6 land

Lacombe Generals looking to capture Allan Cup on home ice

Generals returning key veterans in hopes avenging last years finals loss

Unsightly properties upcoming focus for Bylaw Enforcement

Clean up of long-standing, problematic properties will begin on Sept. 21

WATCH: AHS breaks ground on new Lacombe Community Health Centre

17,000 sq. ft. facility will bring existing Lacombe AHS services together

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

Coaches, players on Alberta university rugby team buckle up for the Broncos

16 people died when Humboldt Broncos bus collided with a semi-truck in rural Saskatchewan

The Vatican ‘owes God an apology,’ activist says in letter to Pope Francis

Letter came after a report on sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

‘A little bright spot:’ Ottawa residents rescue dog trapped beneath rubble

Freelance journalist says rescue of a dog trapped under rubble was happy ending amid chaos in Ottawa

VIDEO: Inside an eerily empty mall in Canada

Only nine of 517 retail spaces are open for business as the grand opening postponed to next year

Tens of thousands without power following tornado in Ottawa region

Hydro Ottawa says more than 170,000 customers were without power early this morning

BALONEY METER: Do Liberal policies mean a typical family is $2,000 richer?

MPs took to Twitter to talk how ‘typical’ Canadian families have more money due to Liberal policies

Most Read