Supplementary Funding Proposal Removes Protection, Choice

Please note this was updated at 8:00am to reflect that Arts and Music will be protected by the contract.
There is a proposal to change Supplementary Funding that will be presented to HRM Committee of the Whole on Tuesday night (MARCH 20).

There are many areas of concern with the current proposal, but simply put, Supplementary Funding was intended to provide funds to enhance education over and above core curriculum. The proposal will remove most restrictions on how the HRM’s money is spent. In essence, the HRM will be in the business of providing funding to support the Province’s core curriculum as outlined in the Public School Program, something that is strictly a provincial responsibility. The funding will no longer be for supplementary enhancement, and will become core funding.

HRM has been somewhat successful at forcing the HRSB to spend money in specific areas for enhancement. A further protection provided to ensure specific funding was the creation several years ago of a specific “Arts and Music Area Rate”.

The proposal eliminates area rates for music and education – This removes dedicated area rate funding for the former city of Halifax schools of $2,029,100.

While the Halifax Regional School Board commits to maintaining Arts and Music funding at current levels, the reason the separate area rate for Art and Music was created was to address concerns that HRSB was not using the money as directed, and to ensure the money from the local community got where it was intended.

Some areas of HRM desire enhanced programming at the cost of additional area rates. Some areas absolutely do not want additional levees for any educational funding. The proposal will harmonize the supplementary funding rate across all of HRM, while lowering the total amount of money collected for HRSB from $20,396,100 by $450,000 a year for four years.

The ability of individual areas of HRM to raise, lower, create and direct funding raised through area rates would be eliminated for the duration of the agreement by section 6 of the proposed contract, that states “There will be no specific educational area rates for targeted areas within the HRM without the approval of the HRSB.”

It is not acceptable that this levy be transformed into ongoing core funding. It is inappropriate for the municipality to fund a provincial program. HRM should not allow spending on any core curriculum, as outlined in the Public School Program, from these revenues.

Supplementary Funding is intended to enhance education based on local needs and desires at the direction of the local population. Some areas wish to opt out and not pay any tax, some wish to spend significantly for enhanced services.

However, a new model is needed. Areas of HRM are deeply divided about whether or not they wish to pay for enhanced education. The desires of one area should not be forced on the others, as this levy is in its nature an area rate.

Residents served by each Family of Schools could determine, through plebicite, whether and what level of Supplementary funding they wish for their areas. The administration could follow the model used in the former Halifax County, where the each individual Family of Schools determines how the funding is spent in their community.

The Province is obliged to provide adequate funding to deliver the Public School Program. HRM should only fund enhancements to that program at the express request, and funded by, local communities.