Calgary widow with $1,300 school fee bill waiting for provincial relief with no timeline in sight

We lived in Calgary 18 years ago and I remember paying money for the Lunch Program which I thought meant eating a lunch at school. Boy was I wrong when my daughter came home by bus from her designated public school, hungry because the Lunch Program wasn’t for food …. it was to pay for supervision. There weren’t any schools in our community because it was new. The next year we had to pay a bus fee and were given a by on the Lunch Program fee. The year we left, the board sent home a notice asking us to prioritize a music specialist, sports specialist, and librarian because they didn’t have enough funds for all three and they wanted to prioritize the roles. I wanted all three. That was my foray into public education and it hasn’t gotten any better. I feel the Lunch Program/supervision should be included in the school’s operating costs. Click here to read the full story or an excerpt below. Click here or the pdf file to read the and go to page 164/188 for the Calgary Board of Education Fee structure.

 

Althea Adams, like many Calgary parents, got a hefty bill from the Calgary Board of Education this year: $1,300 in various fees for her two sons attending elementary school.

The money covers a variety of services:

  • $30 each for instructional supplies and services
  • $285 each for noon supervision
  • $670 combined for transportation — the school bus

Adams might be fine, but a growing proportion of Calgary parents with children in the Calgary Board of Education aren’t — 10 per cent of fees were waived in the 2014-15 school year (the latest available), up from nine per cent in the two years before. They represented about $3.1 million.

The board waives school fees for people on provincial financial assistance or who receive the Alberta Child Health Benefit, or that it determines are otherwise in financial hardship. It says that no child is ever denied access to education because of an inability to pay fees.

According to Brad Grundy, chief financial officer for the CBE, the higher number of waivers is partly because of an increase in the charge for lunch supervision about two years ago — which meant a greater financial burden for more families.

And many people just aren’t paying. The board sent 7,400 transportation and lunch supervision accounts to collections agencies in 2014-15, representing about $2.1 million in uncollected fees.

he board gets back about 40 cents of every dollar sent to collections, which is money they wouldn’t get otherwise, he said.

No date set for provincial fee reductions: education minister

The school board, like many others in Alberta, charges fees to make up for funding shortfalls, said Grundy. “It’s a fairly easy equation. It’s the dollars we get from the province. It’s the cost of providing that service. Put the two together and if there’s a gap, it becomes a fee.”

The NDP government campaigned on reducing school fees in the province, but didn’t act on that promise in its last budget, citing the difficult economy. According to information provided by the office of the minister of education, David Eggen, school boards across Alberta planned to charge about $250.7 million in school fees in their budgets last year.

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