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In response to feedback from parents, school authorities and others, the government is providing targeted supports to address rural ride times, inflationary pressures and rising costs for parents.
Through Budget 2023, school authorities will receive an additional $414 million over the next three years to support school transportation improvements and help keep education affordable and accessible for Alberta families.
“More than 300,000 students and their families rely on student transportation services every school day, and we take that responsibility seriously. With the changes we are making and our increased investment through Budget 2023, the student transportation system will be safer for students, more affordable for families, and provide enhanced funding for our school authority partners.”
Saving families money
By introducing regulatory changes, about 80,000 additional students will be eligible for provincial transportation funding. Included are about 47,000 students who are currently paying a fee to use bus services who will become eligible for provincial support, which will save their parents more than $20 million.
“It’s been a long-standing practice of the EIPS board of trustees to provide equitable, accessible and affordable transportation for school families. Alberta Education’s new investments in student transportation reflect the needs flagged by school divisions in recent years and mean EIPS will be able to further enhance the bus service we offer.”
"The supports to cover driver training costs and also providing a trainee a training wage will be well-received by school divisions and contractors."
Eligibility distance lowered
Currently, for students to be eligible for government-funded busing service, they must live at least 2.4 kilometres from their designated school. Beginning Sept. 1, 2024, Alberta’s government is reducing that distance to one kilometre for Grade 1 to 6 students and two kilometres for Grade 7 to 12 students, measured by using the shortest driving route. With investments in Budget 2023, school authorities that want to implement these changes in the 2023-24 school year can do so.
By lowering the distance eligibility, almost 33,000 students will be able to rely on a school bus to get to school safely. About 20,000 of these students will be able to use a bus that is already in service and is not at capacity, especially in rural areas. About 250 additional bus routes will be needed to accommodate the remaining 13,000 students in both urban and rural areas.
“Reducing the distance eligibility for funded transportation, resulting in decreased or eliminated transportation fees for some parents, is an improvement parents on school councils have requested for some time. ASCA and its member school councils work hard to support students and schools and influence positive change in K-12 education. Having these important voices reflected in decisions such as increasing the number of Alberta’s students eligible for funded busing is crucial to the ongoing engagement of parents through school councils, and the continued success of school communities and education in Alberta.”
Addressing cost and inflationary pressures
Along with supporting newly eligible students, Budget 2023's student transportation funding will continue to address cost and inflationary pressures faced by school authorities and bus contractors. By providing funding for an additional 100 bus routes serving rural students, rural ride times are expected to be about nine per cent shorter. Increased funding for driver training will support 1,250 drivers, including 350 new drivers, and increase the driver workforce by six per cent.
Alberta’s government is also continuing the Fuel Price Contingency Program for the 2023-24 school year. This program provides school authorities with additional funding to address high fuel costs and protect school bus services. To date, the program has saved school authorities $8.5 million in the 2021-22 school year (March to June 2022), $16.5 million in the 2022-23 school year, and is projected to save them a total of $23.5 million in the 2023-24 school year.
“Student transportation is an ongoing advocacy priority for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA). School boards face pressures from rising costs due to inflation, fuel, wages and insurance, in addition to the challenges of recruiting, training and retaining school bus drivers. ASBA is pleased to see targeted transportation funding aimed at helping to offset these challenges and looks forward to continued collaboration with the government on the implementation of the transportation framework.”
“The CASS board of directors appreciates the government’s efforts to provide cost relief in transportation, the continuation of the Fuel Price Contingency Program to address inflationary pressures, and other specific initiatives to address transportation challenges.”
Student Transportation Task Force
Student transportation funding increases and eligibility changes build upon the work of the Student Transportation Task Force. Created in May 2020, the task force brought together the education system, transportation industry representatives and MLAs to examine the future of student transportation in Alberta. Their report was released in May 2021, along with the government’s three-phase action plan in response to the recommendations. Funding and eligibility updates announced as part of Budget 2023 implement the third and final phase of that action plan.
“The Student Transportation Task Force provided options and recommendations to improve cost, eligibility and safety for students taking yellow school buses. This targeted funding will make transportation more affordable and accessible for Alberta families, saving them time and money while improving student safety. As a member on this task force, I am happy to see the feedback from our extensive engagements implemented.”
Budget 2023 secures Alberta’s future by transforming the health-care system to meet people’s needs, supporting Albertans with the high cost of living, keeping our communities safe and driving the economy with more jobs, quality education and continued diversification.
- In Budget 2023, school transportation funding increases by $414 million over the next three years, including $93.5 million in 2023-24, $160 million in 2024-25 and $160 million in 2025-26.
- Currently, school authorities transport more than 300,000, or roughly 42 per cent, of Alberta’s students.
- About 253,000 Alberta students transported to and from school every day are eligible for provincially funded transportation services.
- School boards also provide transportation services for just over 47,000 students who are not eligible, usually for a fee.
- The student transportation funding model provides funding to school authorities for each eligible student.
- Under the Education Act, public, separate and francophone school authorities are legally obligated to provide transportation for students to and from their school if the student resides within the boundaries of the school division, the attendance area of the school and meets the criteria set out in regulation.
- The School Transportation Regulation sets the criteria for school authorities regarding who they are obligated to provide service to.
- The Fuel Price Contingency Program was reintroduced in summer 2022 to provide school authorities with greater cost certainty when diesel prices exceed $1.25 per litre.