Bill 1 aims to cut school fees

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SPERD examines impact

Getting ready to start a new school year might soon be easier on parents’ wallets, following the introduction of Bill 1, but school boards are now wondering how the implications of reducing school fees could impact their budgets.

If Bill 1 is passed, “Alberta parents will no longer have to pay school fees for instructional supplies or materials or for eligible students taking the bus to their designated schools,” reads a media release from the provincial government, dated March 2.

These specific fees cost Alberta families more than $50 million each year, according to the provincial government, and they account for approximately 25 per cent of the total fees charged to parents.

St. Paul Education Regional Division school board discussed the possible implications of Bill 1 at its last regular meeting on March 8.

Secretary-Treasurer Jean Champagne said the financial impact just on base registration fees across the division would be over $120,000. Add in the change to some of the busing fees that would be effected, and the board could see a total impact of about $180,000.

Champagne said he was unsure of how the province plans to offset the lost revenue, and added that school boards have yet to receive further details on the bill.

“We’re still waiting to see.”

Board chair Heather Starosielski acknowledged that it’s always good when fees are decreased, and the burden on parents is lessened, but she also admitted it was hard to comment on the bill when there are still many unknowns.

If the process continues to move ahead as planned, and the bill is proclaimed, the new legislation could come into effect in time for the 2017/18 school year.

The St. Paul Journal asked parents what they thought of the reduction in fees, via social media, with some parents saying it will be beneficial, and others saying fees aren’t very high in the first place.

School fees can vary from school-to-school, and the SPERD board recently revised policies regarding fees at its schools.

“Further consultation with parents and school boards will occur before the regulation is established, but it will set a clear definition for instructional supplies or materials. Included in this category would be charges for: textbooks, workbooks, photocopying, and printing or paper supplies,” says the release.

“Our government believes in a publicly funded education system and school fees should not be a barrier to kids getting a good start in life, no matter their circumstance,” said David Eggen, Minister of Education.

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