Education minister wipes slate clean on credit clawbacks
Alberta’s education EDMONTON minister has cancelled an $11.3-million clawback from 59 school boards whose students took too many high school credits last year.Frustrated school board trustees and superintendents said last week they may cancel programs and limit options for high school students after receiving notices earlier this month saying Alberta Education was holding back funding for every student who earned more than 45 credit enrolment units during the 2017-18 school year.After Postmedia contacted government Wednesday with questions about the clawbacks, the education minister reversed course Friday, saying the move had “unintended consequences” and was now under review.“Our students deserve to learn as much as they can while in our schools, and it has become clear to me that the CEU adjustment could harm their academic pursuits,” David Eggen said in a Friday statement.Money withheld from boards earlier in the month was to be sent to school boards Tuesday, said an email from the minister.The new 45 CEU cap took effect in September 2017.Previously, the government funded high schools for students to take up to 60 credits in a 12-month period.The clawbacks didn’t hit boards until this month, as credits from the last school year have now been tallied.School boards and district leaders, who have raised concerns about the lower credit cap since its introduction, were placated by the move.“We’re relieved that the department saw some of the unintended consequences that this funding program brought into schools,” Darcy Eddleston, chairman of the Wainwright-based Buffalo Trail school division, said Tuesday.Last Wednesday, Eddleston was feeling “extremely frustrated” while looking at a Feb. 1 notice saying the government was withholding $108,975 for the 135 Buffalo Trail students who earned more than 45 CEUs last year.Looking at unfunded costs, he was questioning the viability of the division’s outreach school in Vermilion, where students re-take classes to improve their marks and complete courses that don’t fit in their school timetable.“School boards across the province are under a lot of pressure to lower dropout rates and yet we’re having our hands tied in offering programming options to students to keep them interested and involved in school,” Eddleston said Wednesday.He said the cap was disproportionately affecting rural highschools, which offer fewer inschool options and see more students registering in skill-based and career-based courses outside school hours.
ONE SUMMER SCHOOL CANCELLED
The education minister introduced the cap to help fund a $50-million reduction in school fees families paid and to fund schools with growing enrolment.Edmonton Public Schools was set to lose $2.1 million after 10 per cent of high school students earned more than 45 CEUs. Edmonton Catholic Schools had more than 1,000 students exceed the cap and was about to lose $803,000 this year.Edmonton Catholic school board chairwoman Laura Thibert commended Eggen’s change of heart.“This enhances opportunities for our future innovators and leaders by allowing students to attain a well-rounded portfolio and take a wide array of courses,” she said Tuesday.In Drayton Valley, however, summer school is already history after the expected CEU clawback prompted the Wild Rose school division last year to decide it was unaffordable.In the Whitecourt-based Northern Gateway school division, superintendent Kevin Andrea said last week he was set to meet with principals to decide how to cut $246,483 from high school budgets. That’s how much Alberta Education was to withhold after 17 per cent of the division’s high school students exceeded the CEU cap.“This may be the final nail in the coffin of dual credit within my jurisdiction,” he said on Feb. 14. The courses give students both high school and post-secondary credits as they learn trade and career skills.On Tuesday, Andrea welcomed Alberta Education bumping the credit funding limit back up to 60 CEUs. Just 20 students earned more than 60 CEUs last year, he said, which will mean a much smaller loss of $34,000 for the division.“Right away, it took quite a bit of the pressure off our pre-budget discussions in the jurisdiction and I think it breathes new life into some of our off-campus education,” Andrea said Tuesday.
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