The provincial budget mostly arrived on February 25. We say “mostly” because, while we know the total allocation for education, key pieces of information are missing at this time. In past years, the funding manual and projected funding allocations for school boards are released with the budget. However, this year the government has not yet released the funding manual or profiles. Instead, it has promised to deliver these items by March 31.
The lack of specifics in the funding manual and funding profiles presents two problems. First, it is not possible to do a detailed analysis at this time without knowing the specifics. Second, it raises the question, how did the government arrive at the overall funding amount without having the funding method in place? One would expect the funding amounts determined by the funding manual to drive the end result.
Only a very high-level analysis of the information is available at this time. Comparisons to 2020/21 are rather difficult. The pandemic has caused most budgeted amounts in the previous budget to be thrown out the window. Due to COVID-19, total education spending in 2020/21 will likely be about $132 million more than budgeted. Education spending in 2021/22 should be about $109 million more than budgeted in 2020/21. However, it will be about $23 million less than actual spending in 2020/21.
Unfortunately, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details, and at this point we do not know those details due to the lack of funding profiles. A couple of areas that do appear to explain part of the funding change is an increased allocation for schools and facilities. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Many boards have had to subsidize their plant operations and maintenance with money from instruction. If the added money for schools and facilities eases that pressure, then there may be a bit more money for instruction.
Bear in mind that these numbers are for the government’s fiscal year, which runs from April 1 to March 31. In contrast, school board fiscal year coincides with the school year and runs from September 1 to August 31. How these spending allocations actually affect school boards can be impacted by the difference in fiscal years. Once we are able to see the funding manual and funding profiles for school boards, we can do a more detailed analysis.
Budget 2021—the devil is in the details. At this point we know the total allocation for education; however, key pieces of information are missing at this time. #WEAREATA