Friday, April 30, 2010

On Victory in Europe hiatus

This blog will be on hiatus until at least May 10.
I have the honour of attending and covering events in the Netherlands from May 1-7 around the 65th anniversary of Victory in Europe and the liberation of the Netherlands. Students from Woodstock's Huron Park Secondary School are attending these events (and others I won't be at) as well over this time period. I may tweet occasionally from Europe as time and connectivity allows.
Please check out my newspaper's coverage, as well as the website and blog maintained by HPSS.
Metroland Durham Region reporter Crystal Crimi and photographer Sabrina Byrnes are on the same tour as myself-- check out their blog, which they are updating on Blackberries and an iPhone throughout the tour.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A pox on edubabble

Though my own reporting this week locally, I had the opportunity to witness two different ways of tackling the difficult explanation of school-closure reviews and the various steps-- consideration, rationale, decision and outcome.
I won't name the specific boards, but two boards and two separate processes. One review just underway and one where trustees approved a whack of capital spending at the conclusion of a set of reviews.
For the first, I was smacking my forehead, listening to a superintendent try and explain why classes (split classes at that) of 10, or 12, or even seven students wasn't pedagogically as sound as larger groupings of students and staff. Out came the edubabble.
There was no initial attempt to put it in terms people can understand. I don't mean dumbing it down, because that's patronizing. I mean breaking it into plain-English chunks and also speaking to outcomes, not processes. The person in question saved herself later in the evening on a subsequent question when she told the grumbling crowd she didn't mean to suggest that small schools, small classes or rural produced students less capable of success.
She stated, more plainly, that it's clear the two most important parts of student success are the classroom teacher, supported by principal leadership-- regardless of class or school size. People understood that one.
Contrast that with example number two.
Two superintendents speaking to a combined five school construction/addition/reno projects worth $30 million that are a conclusion to two school-closure reviews. Very little edubabble.
Great anecdotes in plain English about how the kids at the school without a gym will no longer have to walk across a muddy field in sub-zero temperatures to use a nearby recreational facility that has a gym. Of how teachers will be able to team-teach in the same grade level and do joint lesson planning , evaluation and class exercises. Of how peer groups in the single-digit range will benefit from a wider circle of kids to socialize with.
Or the other superintendent who spoke of renos to the elementary general arts room to soundproof it so that the entire building doesn't have to experience the joys of intermediate grades picking up instruments for the first time.
Earlier in the review, the best thing done by the board was a tour of a new school with the same approximate proposed student size so parents on the review could see the difference. The other was a one-page sheet outlining the differences in program between a 400 student school and a 180 student school.
Improvements made possible because of school-closure processes, which the director of education tied in a neat little bow at the end-- explaining the reviews are very tough on those who participate but that, guided by a goal of improving the conditions under which children are learning, there's a nice payoff at the end.
I say banish edubabble.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bill 242 third reading

When I don't blog for a week, life carries on-- despite an interest in posting on clause-by-clause committee examination of Bill 242, I'm catching up now on the second day of debate on third reading of the bill. I've glanced quickly at the changes, and a few thoughts pop-up.
  • Biggest thing that popped up at me was the clause added that spells out school boards can continue to participate in agreements with third parties that run programs in the school, except when it comes to the kids enrolled in the early learning program. Those must still be run by boards, but the addition of the clause should relieve some angst that the ELP was going to chase before- and after-care programs for all school-aged children out of schools. Whether third-party providers would still run those programs without the four- and five-year-olds is a question that still needs an answer.
  • Lots of vocabulary changes. Kindergarten and junior kindergarten are classes for example, but extended-day programs are units. Seems to be some turf protection suggesting only teachers teach classes while early childhood educators lead programs comprised of units of kids. Inane, in my opinion.
  • No change to the sections mandating boards to be responsible for fee subsidies-- either through delegation with the local municipally based consolidated service manager or by handling them in-house at boards. Boards don't want to touch fee subsidy at all, but apparently this signals the ministries of education, children and youth services, community and social services and municipal affairs and housing aren't speaking well with each other. This should just be regulated to municipalities through this bill -- they're already handling it.
With debate ongoing for third reading, it's likely the bill could carry within a few legislative days. Undoubtedly there'll be a press release.

Kudos to the Globe

This week proved what throwing some decent resources at education coverage can do. While many journos would likely point to the larger public-dollar and policy impacts to what the Globe and Mail uncovered Monday about the richest double-dip in Ontario, it's an education issue. This scenario doesn't exist in such a broad scale in other parts of the public sector in this province. It also garnered a second article on the Monday, with follows on Tuesday (two, actually) and Wednesday.
Someone reads or sees or hears something somewhere about retired teachers' pension eligibility and 90-day ability to work without penalty and the question arises-- how much is this costing? Drop $5 here, $5 there and get the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFOIPPA) a little workout (the articles note several appeals were needed) and you get a little deeper response. It was a logical follow-up to something discussed by Moira MacDonald in December (I posted at the time, and again when she did a follow-up in January). I'll note the double-byline on the article-- meaning the Globe assigned two full-time reporters to these articles to babysit the FOI filings, appeals and the do the grunt work once the documents were released. The Globe is one of only two newsrooms in the country (The Star being the other) I'm aware of that can or would throw two full-time journalists at an education issue like this, so kudos earned and deserved.
Of course, being the Globe with the prominence and profile it can give to the issue, other media latch on and either essentially redo the articles for their own audience or localize it. There have been a few headlines come across in my alerts since Monday on substitute teachers or retirees, as an example take this one from the Belleville Intelligencer.
I'm encouraged as well-- issues that I pick up on, blog about and then go big when other media pick them up (note, I'm not saying they picked them up here... that's a level of hubris I don't own) and really get people's attention. Most importantly, the attention of those who can make changes. It's nice to be ahead of the curve some times though,
If I were to have any criticism, it would be a small one-- the coverage neglects (I haven't read every article with a fine-toothed comb) to mention the 90-day penalty free clause has a time limit on it-- three years if memory serves off the top of my head. With the bulge of retirements now over, many of those who taught past retirement and were the targets of this coverage will soon see a drastic drop in the number of eligible days without pension penalty.
This could be an out for the federations and the government-- since the problem is going to decrease anyway, they could do a minor tweak and attribute decreases to that instead of a mechanism already in place. However, it seems as though genuine reform is coming-- from direction to decrease teachers' college admission (Oh, Dean Julia O'Sullivan should call them) to retirement and pension reform.

Cooler heads prevail in NOTL

OK, no way around it, this is old news. The Ontario Municipal Board hearing into the Virgil rezoning for a proposed school site began and ended on April 12 in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
For those who'd forgotten, the District School Board of Niagara appealed a town council refusal to rezone a plot of land to allow for the construction of a new school consolidating two existing, older facilities. It's the other half of the school-closure review that will see Niagara District Secondary School close its doors in June.
On the day of the hearing, I received an e-mail from someone who received a tweet (gotta love social media) from someone in attendance at the hearing. Within an hour of that, I received the joint media release to my blogging e-mail address and was reading about the agreement between the town and the school. In short, the town agrees to rezone the property to allow for the new school and the board will include a community use library as part of the facility.
The release has its flowery language from Lord Mayor Gary Burroughs and the DSBN director of education and chair, making no reference even to the legal battle settled by the first day of what would have likely been a very interesting hearing. I'm no planner, but the school board seemed to have the better case in planning terms, and town council was just knee-jerk reacting in its displeasure over the NDSS decision.
In my experience with OMB issues, municipalities rarely back down from the hearings unless they're receiving advice from their solicitors after the pre-hearings that they should settle and avoid a full hearing. The board's orders overrule the planning for the plot in question and many municipalities would prefer to not have a quasi-judicial legal body set planning policy within their borders.
Anyway, of course, the St. Catherines Standard followed up with an article on April 13.
The board will also recognize the importance of having elementary students in Virgil continue to go to a school in Virgil.
"They wanted some assurance we wouldn't bus them somewhere else," Hoshizaki said. "That was not at all our intention anyway, but they needed some assurance we would endeavour to keep their kids there."
But not everyone was pleased with the outcome.
Coun. Gary Zalepa said he didn't agree with the terms of the settlement or the decision to not go ahead with the hearing.
"I didn't see the logic in backing down at this point," said Zalepa, adding the legal case had already been assembled and the town didn't save a lot of money by settling.
One of the terms of settlement was that money given by the Virgil Business Association for an international baccalaureate program at Niagara District Secondary School — which is closing — be credited by the school board with the condition the association reallocate funds for computer upgrades at the new school.
No surprise over the councillor's objections. He has been among the fiercest advocates for the plan to keep this zoned for eventual residential use as a spite to the board and continue advocating for a JK-12 facility-- er, sorry, a centre of excellence for all high school students in the town.
Anytime two public bodies can work together (as they should) instead of both pissing away public dollars in a legal battle, we win.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A thought on teacher education and the job market

I got a response on my earlier post about faculties of education and how they're responding to changes in the labour market for teaching in Ontario, particularly southern Ontario. Sections of the e-mail, posted with permission and anonymised, are below.
Our son is currently teaching in the Arctic, in a town of 500, in Northern Quebec. After graduating from Althouse College (University of Western Ontario) three years ago, (a school requiring exceptional entry grades and, even, experience), he qualified for the Thames Valley board's supply teachers list, but after several months, was never called. The glowing report cards from the mentors he taught under were obviously false, but make for nice keepsakes, I suppose! The Katavik Board of Education, from Northern Quebec, contacted him in late November of that year. Their board had talked to graduating Althouse students the previous spring. They wondered if he would travel north for a month, to fill in for a teacher on sick leave. The idea of real teaching experience was enhanced by the thought of seeing the Arctic, so he said yes, and we scrambled to get him packed (food included as we didn't know what would be available up there) and off he went, to the tiny village of Tasiujaq (pop 200), Quebec. After a two-day journey on four different planes he arrived, and began teaching the very next day. The experience was unique, and he managed to survive until Christmas, when he was asked to return in January, to replace another 'sick' teacher. Two years later, with no openings in the Thames Valley Board, he is still up in the Arctic, in a slightly larger village, Kangiqsujuaq (pop 500) on a full-time basis. He has had to adapt the maths and science courses he teaches, in order to make them applicable to the Inuit students. Of course, that required much re-writing of texts, so lesson planning took up most of his first year. Adjustment has taken some time, but he has found the northern people very accepting, and he has taken part in several community events, including coaching some students for competition in the Inuit Games, recently held in Northern Alberta.
Going north (or west) might be something to consider before going abroad, but it still doesn't answer the question of why the colleges accept so many students, only to turn them loose with virtually no job prospects near their home base! We would love to have our son closer, and miss him a lot. On the other hand, it has been a life experience you really can't argue with. The downside of the story comes right back to the problem of 'teaching' experience required by the Thames Valley board. Will they see the teaching and life experiences he is getting in an Inuit community, relevant to teaching down here?
Though not a rule, I'm sure this experience is not unique. I can't speak for the board and their hiring practices, but have learned over the years this board does at times hire those with teaching experience outside the norm. There were also years where they hired a larger percentage of D'Youville College (Buffalo) grads as that college was doing more work on early language and literacy than Ontario faculties were. This wasn't reflected in the hiring stats for 2009-10, but boards likely have a better lay of the land on grads than their faculties some times do.
After all, after hiring, boards have only a few years to put teachers through the New Teacher Induction Program, where the hires get all kinds of additional experience in program, classroom management, etc. and the benefit of a teacher-mentor to shadow and learn from.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On failure

A surprising article today from the Niagara Falls Review. The content isn't surprising, but the willingness of the paper and the reporter to tackle the question— how many kids fail elementary school grades?
The key to this coming together? The report from the Ministry of Education on how many children are "retained" in one grade while the remainder of their age-group cohort advances to the next grade. The article doesn't specify how these were obtained (simple request? Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act request?) but they're the foundation of the answer to the likely question asked in that newsroom. The chart doesn't reproduce well on the website (likely looked way sharper in print) but shows how few are held back.
Frank Fera, one of two Catholic board trustees representing Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the- Lake, said he's fairly certain the number of elementary students that fail a grade in any given year is zero or pretty close to it.
"I don't know of any principals at this time who are retaining students," said Fera, who served 34 years as an elementary school principal and teacher in Niagara and 10 years as a trustee. "It's a philosophy we don't believe in at this time.
"Even when I was an educator, we never retained students at that time."
Like (Niagara Catholic dir of ed John) Crocco, Fera supports the concept of social promotion — passing underachievers along to the next higher grade with their peers while at the same time providing remedial supports to the students.
Both cite a large body of research over the past 40 years that concludes failing students, particularly those at the elementary level, does more harm than good.
Fera said he believes the majority of parents of elementary children know their children will in all likelihood be promoted, even in cases where a student's grades show achievement below provincial standards in multiple areas.
Ontario's elementary school report cards include a section that indicates the student's current promotion status. Students are judged to fall into one of three categories: "progressing well toward promotion," "progressing with some difficulty toward promotion" or "promotion at risk."
"If you want my personal opinion on that, it's a sort of cover-your-ass sort of thing," said Fera. "They put it on there in the (event) a child is retained and they then have to justify it, so they say, 'Well, here, we put it up at the top that the child was at risk.
"But in most cases today, there's communication with parents all of the time, so the parents are aware the child is not functioning where he should be or she should be. And at the same time, there are programs in place to help every child." 
The graphic with the article and its first few paragraphs seem written to elicit shock and outrage, but then the sources quoted are like a wet blanket on getting pissed off about students being promoted from year to year independent of academic progress. The verbage at-risk is (or was, at one point) meant to mean "at risk" of not graduating— or, er, becoming an "early school leaver" in ministry parlance at one point.
Can an "at-risk" student still find success in high school and as an adult? I think so, provided there are reasonable options to accommodate their skills, abilities and interests in high school that lead either directly to workplace and apprenticeships or to post-secondary programs. Are these alternate successes any better than the old-fashioned failing elementary numerous times and then dropping out? Or, going back to the even-older days, not really caring about whether a child failed in elementary because they just had to know enough (at the time) to farm or work on the shop floor?
This was the subject of some recent back-and-forth between myself and a few anonymous folks in the comment section of a recent post— but this article doesn't seem to hammer the nail in the coffin on whether or not practice should change when it comes to social promotion.
Kudos to the Review however— asking the ministry for the rates is not something I would have thought to do. I've been scooped.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Changes to 242?

Read this post over at Full Day Early Learning with some interest. The authors suggest one of the amendments to Bill 242 (the enabling legislation for full-day learning / full-day kindergarten) will be to allow for partnerships between boards and community partners on the delivery of before- and after-school programs.
The committee is set to do its clause-by-clause review of the bill Monday. It faced testimony supporting and speaking against the bill and (to-date) government's insistence that this program be offered exclusively by school boards.
The testimony itself got some good media hits across the province as different local papers picked up on the concern and localized it -- perhaps my bias, but I noticed the Y's concerns got a lot of play. Even in today's Ottawa Citizen, the CEO of the National Capital Region YM-YWCA (disclosure: where I worked from 1997-2000) had an op-ed piece.
When I spoke with Minister Leona Dombrowsky after the grants release, I asked some specific q's about capital and other funding for the Early Learning Program. My notes aren't at the desk I'm typing this from in Ottawa, but recollection of the conversation and the ensuing article shows a willingness to keep talking to school boards, keep talking with the childcare sector and muddle through implementation as best possible.
If time and opportunity allows, I'll post something once the Hansard is updated on the clause-by-clause committee meeting this coming week.

NDSS update

It's been a while since I've posted on the continuing Niagara District Secondary School / Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake developments-- but not because there haven't been any.
Two things from the Niagara Advance (that, as is its prerogative, has remained solidly pro-NDSS) this week, a council meeting-based article and an opinion piece, both penned by Penny Coles. Both are based on town council giving its approval to a revised draft of a brief for the Ministry of Education, specifically for Minister Leona Dombrowsky. The linked version here shows the revisions with strikeouts and underlines.
I don't see too many changes of substance since it was first tabled earlier this year. The committee still wants the province to force the school board to reverse a decision set to take effect in September (for which students have already made course selections) so a new school (still called a "Centre of Excellence in Education," a name that makes me giggle since it sounds like the "award for outstanding achievement in the field of excellence," a la Simpsons) can be built in the town. I posted about the first draft here.
The coverage notes the committee has softened some of the language with respect to this proposal being dependent on students of both Eden and the Catholic board in order to get the bums in seats for the school to be full.
This brief should have been written in June 2008. But at the time the koolaid in the water left everyone thinking the school would be so popular it would reach the enrolment threshold. Throwing it on the minister's desk tomorrow is regrettably late for her to give it any serious consideration given the building in question closes in just under three months. If she would even consider it-- which, unless I'm way off on how the government has handled school accommodation, she won't.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sunshine predicted, sunshine seen

Not sure how many picked up on this across the province as they localized the annual release of the public sector salary disclosure on Wednesday, March 31. I would suspect, based on my own reporting and local area, that school boards led the way when it comes to the number of individuals added to the $100K club in 2009. Locally, school board lists in my district went from about 100 people to almost 400 as every elementary school principal was added to the list, along with virtually all secondary vice-principals. Some elementary school vice-principals made it onto the list, depending on their seniority and when they were posted to the position. High school principals all made the list in 2009 (for 2008 salaries and benefits).
This shouldn't be shocking, or a surprise. The moment provincial discussion tables were settled and the boards started finalizing agreements with their principals, you could have pinpointed March 31, 2010 as the date all those positions would crack the six-figure disclosure list for the first time. It was predictable and has come into play exactly as expected. Last year, I posted here noting that (though I'm sure we'll all forget) by the end of the current contract terms, those teachers at the top of the grid when the contract was ratified will all crack the $100K sunshine list club.
No doubt, these new additions will make it over to Sunshine on Schools, allowing us all to make a correlation where one doesn't or shouldn't necessarily exist. Not a dig against SQE-- it is the only group doing that kind of disclosure work.
This won't quell those who simply get angry at the numbers of people making six figures on the public dime, but I would suggest a few thoughts.
First, these were duly negotiated and settled contracts. My local MPP suggests the disclosure act was supposed to keep pressure on public sector employers to keep the lists from growing (that obviously hasn't happened). Other than the fact of having an ever-growing list, there doesn't seem to be much public interest in slashing into these salaries and benefits-- if there was, then the list wouldn't still be growing after 14 years.
Second, I look at the qualifications of a principal. Yes, I know, there are still plenty of them out there who didn't have these prerequisites in place when they were hired to these positions, but let's look at what's needed today to even qualify for the interview.
First, the principals' qualification program. To even be accepted, the candidate needs at least five years' experience and to be qualified to teach in three of the four K-12 divisions -- a step that required additional qualification training beyond teachers' college. A masters in education must be complete or underway (there's some equivalent experience equivalency there, but it's likely most do the M.Ed). Boards have been known to hire principals or vice-principals on an acting basis while they complete these requirements. My district board requires an M.Ed within five years of posting to a vice-principal or principal position. A reminder for many, this M.Ed is the third degree they've achieved, after an initial honours degree and B.Ed. While there is no shortage of available teachers to fill available teaching positions, there have at times been shortages of teachers qualified and able to be posted to vice-principal or principal positions.
Then I look at their responsibilities. Student and teacher management, scheduling, discipline, being effective instructional leaders, managing school effectiveness and improvement planning, all the items relating to school safety and managing a school site.
Then I ask: is that worth $100K? Is it reasonable to expect someone with that educational background and skillset could or should earn an equivalent wage in the private sector?
Depending on where you fall on those two questions, you'll then have your answer on how to look upon this year's sunshine list.

On teaching

I must say I was honestly surprised to have ruffled as many feathers as I apparently did over the past few weeks when writing about the realities of the job market for teaching in Ontario.
It started late March, as one of the local boards I cover released a statistical report on its hiring for the fall of 2009. Depressing numbers, in a board with almost 8,000 employees, that so few were hired, and virtually none hired to full-time permanent contracts. But such is the reality, as highlighted by every year's survey as completed by the Ontario College of Teachers-- the most recent is in the latest edition of their members' magazine. The quote that caused concern?
"This concerns me, working in a faculty of education, we're producing 700 grads every year and this is discouraging for them," (Thames Valley District School Board) London trustee and University of Western Ontario faculty Peter Jaffe said.
(Executive superintendent of human resources services Mike) Sereda responded his creative advice for those folks or others would be to seek other options before education.
"There's a glut in the market and there will be for some time. If you're really committed to teaching, go overseas," Sereda said. "There are a large number of teachers chasing a small number of jobs and that won't change in the near future."
As happens in our chain from time-to-time, the story was picked up by the Free Press in London and on the day it published there I received a call from University of Western Ontario faculty of education dean Julia O'Sullivan's office, requesting an interview. I never turn down an interview, so we chatted, along with associate dean Margaret McNay, about the teachers' shortage shortage of teaching jobs.
The deans were upset with the lead paragraph, which they insisted misrepresents the reality. O'Sullivan pointed to how there are still plenty (in the millions) of teachers needed to provide basic primary education to every child around the world. They spoke a lot about how their graduates are finding success in overseas employment, or those willing to go remote or north to seek jobs. For those who stick around, the faculty is attempting to cater to their interests by offering more course sections in those areas where teachers have a better probability of getting full-time contracts (French-language, technological education). The ensuing article ran a few days later, and I haven't noticed whether it was picked up by other sister papers.
Local statistics show, however, that the majority of teachers hired by local boards -- even to the supply teaching or part-time contracts that dominate available positions -- are UWO grads. The numbers don't correlate to the numbers who graduate on an annual basis, but that doesn't change the overall need for qualified teachers, O'Sullivan and McNay said.
"We're very conscious that for many graduates, while teaching locally may be their first choice, they're happy to do so internationally, or north, or west before they get that dream job at a school in London," McNay said. "They're willing to go elsewhere and they want to take advantage of their Bachelor of Education to travel."
The ladies deans insisted their candidates are well aware of the job prospects for this calling within Ontario and even the broader domestic market. They don't track this with any sort of authority though, so I would anecdotally respond that I seriously doubt that to be true. Though overall applications to teachers' college are down (see the OCT survey), there are still plenty of people applying to become a part of this profession. I would say there are very few who dream of teaching in the north, or in Sweden, or elsewhere when they cough up their application fee and start searching for references for supplemental application forms. They're dreaming of working locally, or at least regionally.
The deans also seemed to suggest I really didn't understand this issue-- well, as a journalist, I think I understand it perfectly well as that's another craft where thousands leave post-secondary programs with a piece of paper in their hands that says journalism yet have no hope of working in the field. That was the case 10 years ago (yikes, has it been that long already?) when I walked across a dias to collect my own piece of paper, and it's only gotten starker since then. That doesn't stop an almost endless supply of positions in rural western Canada or the north to work at some small community paper where you're the editor, reporter, photographer and even part-time sales rep working endless hours for a pittance and on a quick path to burnout...  So yeah, I get it.
Given the absolute surplus of available talent, it's time, really, for teachers' colleges in Ontario to consider cutting back enrolment, or catering more of it to the candidates who apply with a desire to seek the teaching positions where they actually exist.

More on 2010-11 grants

Oh, to leave this blog neglected for so long. My apologies.
Surprisingly, though, I've not really seen a lot of coverage of the 2010-11 grants for student needs announcement and board-by-board data released March 25-26. The March 26 webcast slides are available as well.
As predicted, all the provincial discussion table elements are fully funded. The two-year cuts announced last year have been continued. What struck me reading through the full board-by-board document is that for the vast majority of boards, when you look at the increase in the foundation grants, these are where most of the board's total increase is coming from. The rest of the lines are either pretty close to stable or even a slight decrease. Many boards have a slightly smaller allocation for transportation for the coming year than the current one.
For example-- looking to the provincial summary table (page 9), you can see the the totals for those grants in 2010-11 is $13,792,816,234 a 2.67% increase over the 2009-10 revised estimates of $13,434,095,743. When you factor in the percentage increases for wages given to the different sector employees (keeping in mind public elementary teachers are getting less thanks to their provincial federation's bungling of the discussions), that number sits about bang on what's needed to meet the current year's commitment.
A reminder, that doesn't just include wage and benefit increases for current staff, but also the funds to pay for the additional specialist and preparation time teachers in elementary and additional teachers for locally developed programs in secondary.
There are a fair number of boards where if you take these foundation grants, add them up and figure out the difference from the 2009-10 revised estimate amounts, you've also just pinpointed the bulk of any overall increase in the funding as specified on these tables. There are perhaps a handful of boards where the 2010-11 allocation is very close to the 2009-10 revised estimate (less than $1 million in difference), which means another year of adjusting expenses and costs in areas outside of salaries to compensate.
While the overall increase (3%) was touted as a continued investment in education, it shouldn't be taken as much more than a continued commitment to the already promised investments. There's not a lot of "new" funding in this year's release once you take away the things that school boards needed to be funded on based on their committed costs.
The ministry has also rejigged these foundation grants, moving a number of programs "in" to the grant and splitting up the elementary portion. It now includes a primary grant to accommodate the primary class size initiative, as well as a Grades 4-8 grant funded to the slightly decreasing teacher-student ratio in those panels.
Admin has been cut for this year and next, which probably won't make many headlines as many boards likely won't complain about this.
The local opportunities grant has been rejigged to take into account 2006 census data. Most of the rural and distant school grants are being shrunk and/or wound into the supported schools allocation.
Unlike last year's first stab at these tables, at least no board actually sees a decrease in funding.
The above, of course, is just based on operational, not capital. The capital section of these charts requires a much better understanding of how the ministry is flowing dollars to boards to cover the various different generations of projects -- either financed under relatively current means or as dollars to pay down previously mortgaged construction.