At our board meeting yesterday, Trustees discussed a proposal to raise bus fees in response to a subsidy cut from the province.
History to this decision:
On October 24, the provincial government removed the School Fee Reduction Grant to school boards. This resulted in an immediate reduction of $5.3 million dollars for EPSB’s transportation costs, and we no longer have the surplus funds to cover this cost.
The School Fee Reduction Grant to school boards was enacted in 2017 along with An Act to Reduce School Fees. The grant provided a subsidy for bus fees for students who live 2.4 kilometres or more from their designated school. Because of this subsidy, these families did not have to pay bus fees for students in kindergarten to grade 6, and received a subsidized ETS bus pass for $19 for students in grades 7-9. (Edmonton Public Schools did not receive a subsidy for students who live less than 2.4 kilometres from their designated school or who were not attending their designated school and full fees have always been charged for these families).
Yesterday the Board of Trustees voted to reinstate fees for families living 2.4 kilometres or greater from their designated school. This is not a decision we took lightly. We have received classroom and transportation cuts this year and without the provincial subsidy, we cannot take funding from the classroom to cover these costs. We know that any increase in fees to parents has an impact on family budgets, particularly for families with low income.
Some key points:
- The fee increase impacts only students who live 2.4 kms or more from their designated school and who have had subsidized fees. Our other families will not see fee increases in February.
- The increase to transportation fees will take effect February 1, 2020. The increase is not retroactive, as we wanted to give families notice of this decision.
- The board also approved charging transportation fees for Kindergarten students, who have previously received free busing, in order to preserve our funds to classrooms.
- Special education students who receive curb service will not pay fees; transportation for these students remains no charge.
This fee increase will help us to bridge a portion of our funding gap for this year, but we will need to think more broadly about how Edmonton Public Schools provides transportation services to students, and what we charge for that service. Our board also passed an emergent motion to engage with families about their priorities related to transportation, which will likely result in a survey to families in January.
I also requested information on how low income families can be protected from increasing fees. Currently, families can speak with their child’s principal if they require assistance with school or transportation that present a financial hardship.
If you have any questions or concerns about fee increases, please contact me, I would love to speak with you. I would also like to recommend speaking with your MLA and the Education Minister, Adriana LaGrange if you have any concerns about the impact of provincial budget decisions on education. A great tool for contact information for your MLA or any government Minister is “Who is my MLA?”
You can view our board meeting online. We also discussed our current education plan, annual results and advocacy to the federal government.