This open letter was presented to the Board of Trustees of the Calgary Board of Education at their public meeting on November 1, 2011.
Chair Cochrane and Trustees:
At your October 18, 2011 public board meeting, you passed a motion directing administration to distribute the new provincial funding to principals of schools, using the resource allocation method (RAM). As you know this is the same method used for school budgets each year and on Oct 19th, the CBE issued a press release about the specific direction by the Board of Trustees to distribute funding using RAM.
Last year, additional provincial funding of $18.6 million was received and disbursed, without direction from the Board of Trustees. The actions of Administration went unchallenged by the Board.
With these new dollars, the trustees specifically directed administration to use the ‘resource allocation method’ because trustees wanted to ensure equitable – not equal – funding. Equitable funding ensures more for those with greater needs.
If the new funding were distributed equitably via RAM, more funds would be directed toward schools where student needs are greater. Some examples – English language learners, often children of immigrants, aboriginal children, and children with special needs. In addition, more funds would be directed toward reducing class sizes in grades K-3, the only division where the CBE is not currently able to meet provincial targets.
The desire of trustees was clear. During the October 18th board meeting, trustees spoke in favour of distributing funds through RAM to meet the public priority of supports for students with special needs and to effectively reverse the losses schools suffered from the budget shortfall. Chair Cochrane recognized that RAM was developed by senior leadership to equitably distribute funds, according to the values of the Board of Trustees. The trustees agreed that RAM incorporated their priorities, and thus chose not to establish other parameters around how the funds would be distributed.
Ignoring the directive from the Board of Trustees, the chief superintendent chose to distribute the funds equally, on a per student basis, as described in the November school newsletter insert. No matter what needs a school has, or what differences affect a school’s population, each school will get $155.30 per student. The Board of Trustees was clear in their direction to the administration that this is NOT how they intended the money to be distributed.
Chair Cochrane and trustees, we acknowledge that you are a policy board. You did a good thing for students when you passed the motion to have the new funds distributed using the ‘resource allocation method’ (RAM). It is the job of the board of trustees to govern. Giving up your governance role by allowing administrators to act contrary to a decision of the Board of Trustees causes the public to lose faith in their elected trustees, and endangers the Calgary Board of Education’s public image and credibility. We are requesting that you the Board of Trustees continue to do the right thing and not permit administration to govern the system, but leave that work for the CBE elected representatives.
Past trustee of the Calgary Board of Education
Executive member of the Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Calgary Schools