Sunday, April 4, 2010

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.