On Tuesday, June 7, trustees voted to increase all transportation fees as well as removing the family maximum. You can watch a video of the proceedings and breakdown of how trustees voted on our website. Throughout the questions and debate surrounding transportation fees, the need for a comprehensive community consultation was raised by each trustee as well as administration. So why didn’t it happen?
During last year’s difficult budget, all of the transportation reserves were depleted, and the province was clear that this year’s budget would be minimal as well. The Calgary Board of Education was fully aware that there would be a transportation shortfall this year, but did not engage their stakeholders on how best to deal with it. Thus, they did not consider options with wider consequences, such as those currently done by the other metro boards (Calgary Catholic, Edmonton Catholic and Edmonton Public). These include charging more transportation fees for alternative programs, using public transit for most junior high students, only providing one-way transportation for half day Kindergarten students, or sharing some routes between the Catholic and Public systems. Other boards have adjusted half-day Kindergarten to full day, twice a week with alternating Fridays to eliminate the expensive lunch time bus runs. Large changes such as these require community input, and rightly so.
The removal of the family maximum was also a major change (and is something that no other metro board has done). This was not recommended by administration, and was also deserving of a wider consultation. As the public was not aware that the trustees were even considering this option, they had no opportunity to provide feedback of any kind before it was proposed and approved by the trustees.
Even if no one could have predicted the extent of the shortfall, the transportation fee report was given to trustees and released to the public on May 3. Trustees approved the fee hikes on June 7. During this five week period, no public feedback was solicited, and no attempt was made to have these broader conversations around transportation fees.
The refusal of the trustees to release the CBE budget a week before, rather than the day before it is presented, has also limited the ability of the public to provide informed feedback on how the CBE is spending its budget of over a billion dollars. However, we have heard that some trustees are planning to hold conversation cafes during the two week period between when the budget is presented and approved in order to collect feedback. We encourage the public to participate in these sessions and make your voices heard. You can contact your trustee for further information.