Our Four Key Priorities
Throughout the year, the Elk Island Catholic Schools (EICS) Board of Trustees advocate among many stakeholders on a variety of priorities that matter to Catholic Education and, specifically, the education of students attending our schools.
The EICS Trustees continue to target their advocacy to focus on four specific areas:
- Catholic Education
- Instructional Funding
- Capital Funding
- Mental Health
Parents and other stakeholders who are interested in advocating for their child’s education are invited to bookmark and use this page as a resource in their conversations with their elected officials to educate them on the importance of maintaining Catholic Education and ensuring EICS receives proper funding now and in the future.
Maintain non-partisan government support for publicly-funded Catholic education in its current form.
- Elk Island Catholic Schools maintains a high level of academic achievement.
- Plurality in education has been a hallmark strength of Alberta’s Education system for as long as it has existed as a province, and is part of the reason why Albertan students rank among the world’s finest.
- Albertans’ taxes should support an education system that is compatible with their faith; our publicly-funded school system provides faith-based education for a large minority of Albertans, helping to maintain our province’s pluralistic social fabric.
- Along with Indigenous and Francophone rights, the constitutional protection on Catholic Education belongs to a set of minority rights in Canada, which are there to protect vulnerable communities from discrimination. All three groups are still significant minorities today, and are identified explicitly in the 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is significant legal precedent at the highest levels in this country supporting the rights of minorities, which constitute the foundation of our highly pluralistic society.
- Article 26 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”. Publicly-funded separate schools are one of the key ways in which Alberta can demonstrate an adherence to the norms and expectations of the global community at the intersection between human rights and education.
With a budget shortfall going into the 2023-2024 school year that has resulted in significant staff cuts, EICS will continue to advocate for increased funding year over year.
- Budget announcements, while appearing to be a good news story for education, do not match the details of budgets that are given to boards.
- The sudden removal of bridge funding, or the “hold harmless” fund, that has been in place for the last several years comes as a shock to boards and serves to significantly offset the announced increases.
- Inflationary increases in costs for salaries, benefits, and insurance are a challenge for boards and have not been addressed by the government. This has resulted in a serious conversation of the district reducing staff which will in turn affect class sizes and instructional programming.
- Funding is targeted for specific use by the province, which prevents EICS from reallocating that funding to another area where it would be better utilized.
- School districts need predictable and sustainable funding that keeps up with enrollment growth and allows boards to plan strategically based on local context. Application-based funding and reporting requirements do not allow the time to spend funding in the school year by the time the application is processed and funds are received by the province. This also is a burden on administration.
- Restrictions on reserves: EICS has spent down its reserves in the last few years to get under the cap mandated by Alberta Education.
- Programming in the smaller (rural) schools is difficult due to lack of funding based on low enrollment.
- The displaced student fund only supports students who are arriving from Ukraine in the 2022-2023 school year. Support continues to be needed for those who not only arrived in the previous school year, but did so under circumstances they are still grappling with.
To efficiently operate and maintain existing schools in our division and allow for growth of Catholic students in our communities. Capital planning is a priority for EICS to address the funding for schools in new communities and modernization or replacement of existing schools.
- Consideration of a new Catholic school in new communities (e.g., the Bremner development). Utilization rates are the main factor used by the Province to determine funding for new schools. As a division, EICS is constrained by these utilization rates of schools within a municipality.
Modernization or Replacement of Existing Schools
- Modernization or replacement of existing schools that are beyond their useful life is necessary to provide for safe, healthy, and appropriate learning spaces for students.
- Elk Island Catholic Schools is seeking a replacement school for Our Lady of the Angels Catholic School in Fort Saskatchewan. This is a facility at the end of its life, and must be replaced in order to serve the needs of a thriving community.
Operations and Maintenance
- Elk Island Catholic Schools believes operations and maintenance funding should be adjusted to ensure that the real costs are met. Funding is not adequate to address the inflationary increases.
- Adjustments to operations and maintenance funding should be considered in consultation with our school board.
- Insufficient funding for Infrastructure Maintenance Renewal (IMR) and Capital Maintenance Renewal (CMR) projects means school facilities are not keeping up with the required maintenance to prolong their useful life. It’s essential for this maintenance to prolong the life of these facilities when funding for replacement schools or modernization of schools are difficult to attain.
Elk Island Catholic Schools is committed to ensuring the needs of our students are met, including their spiritual, physical, and mental health.
- The division has a duty to support students’ physical and mental health needs, which can be complex, and require the services of other professionals (e.g., counsellors, psychologists, occupational and/or physical therapists.).
- Previous grant funding for mental health was required to be tied to a specific project, rather than providing direct support to our students and staff.
- Elk Island Catholic Schools is committed to having a mental health professional working in each of our schools. Funding that would directly support these positions would allow us to better support our students.
- Reduce red tape: Create an avenue for fewer grant applications (saving time and money by the district) and instead provide more funding (at the same value as grant funding) for direct use.