Parents should not have to pay for bad planning

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It is no real surprise the school board is struggling with its transportation budget.

Back in May when the province passed Bill 1, which was designed to put an end to school fees and cover the cost of transportation to students living beyond walking distance to their school, it played havoc with the board’s busing fee structure.

Due to the change, Rocky View Schools (RVS) exhausted its reserve fund last year and with no new revenue, the division is short $1 million.

As with any person or organization that blows through their savings to cover additional costs without a plan for increased revenue in place, the piper has come calling.

Unfortunately, as with any failure in government to properly address spending, the taxpayer, or in this case parents of school-aged children, will be paying the price.

RVS should be commended for its efforts to consult with stakeholders on how to go about recovering the costs, but a look at the options is pretty bittersweet.

Parents basically have a choice between changes in bell times that might increase childcare costs or the loss of instructional dollars and teacher resources, which could hurt their child’s education.

While we understand that hard choices have to be made when dollars are tight, we can’t help but wonder why all the cost saving measures presented to parents directly effect students and teachers.

Why is there not an option to cut back at the administration or bureaucratic levels? If cutting 10 teachers will save $1 million, would it not take fewer cuts at the senior administration level to save the same?

We also can’t fully accept the school board’s finger pointing at the province for chronically underfunding transportation. If that has been the case for years, why has the school board continuously tried to spend out of the problem? It should have revamped the system long ago by either ensuring fees covered the cost or cutting some transportation services it was never being funded for – namely transporting those students living within 2.4 km of school.

That being said the province must shoulder much of the blame for this predicament. Bill 1, while full of good intentions was on ideological policy that failed to take into account the broader picture. Limiting the number of students RVS could charge transportation fees to, while capping the amount it could charge and then shoveling on $400,000 in extra costs due to the carbon levy, something had to give.

As a result, some parents are paying more in bus fees than they were previously and all parents might have to adjust childcare costs depending on the choice RVS makes.

Ironically, those factors, some of which are a direct result of Bill 1, will far outweigh the saving to parents the bill eliminated.

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Cochrane Eagle