Nunavut education department responds to DEA underfunding accusations

“The Department of Education has not been able to substantiate the claims made by the Iqaluit District Education Authority”

By SPECIAL TO NUNATSIAQ NEWS

I’m writing in response to two recent articles in your newspaper titled “Iqaluit school shortchanged by Education Department, DEA says” as well as “Education minister says he’s unaware of whether Iqaluit students were miscounted.”

We are sending the following to give some clarification on the funding formula.

The Department of Education has not been able to substantiate the claims made by the Iqaluit District Education Authority that errors were found and an apology made by department staff.

There may have been an acknowledgement that communication to the IDEA on how enrollment is determined could have been improved; however, the department stands behind the exclusion of these students from the Sept. 30 enrollment.

There is a comment in the article suggesting the Education Act states each year the ratio should decrease. There is no substantiation for that claim.

Iqaluit DEA funding for 2018-19

In May 2018, Education Minister David Joanasie met with the IDEA and committed to having an audit conducted on the Sept. 30, 2017 enrollment numbers. In June, department officials met with principals to discuss the audit and answer questions.

The results of the audit are as follows:

Inuksuk High School

It was determined that 18 students were part of a total of 48 students that were deleted or withdrawn from the SIS [student information system] for various reasons, but the data entry of deleting those students happened after Sept. 30.

The department requested paper copy backups of attendance records for any of the 18 students, that could demonstrate they attended at least 40 per cent of the time prior to Sept. 30.

No such documentation was provided. No further information was provided to indicate there was an error in deleting or withdrawing these students.

Aqsarniit Middle School

It was determined that 12 students were deleted or withdrawn from the SIS by the school, but not until after Sept. 30. The remaining four students have not been identified, and without any identifying information the discrepancy remains unproven.

Nakasuk Elementary School

It was determined that the nine students were part of a total of 34 students who were deleted or withdrawn from the SIS by the school, but the deletion or withdrawal was not completed until after Sept. 30. No further information was provided to indicate there was an error in deleting or withdrawing these students.

Joamie Elementary School

It was determined that the “0.5 student” was a kindergarten student missing from the report. This omission did not result in an additional position under the SER.

As at September 30

The date used to calculate the annual enrollment figures is “at Sept. 30.” The figures are determined through the student information system (SIS). The date this information is pulled from the system is usually 30 to 60 days after Sept. 30.

This interim timeline allows principals to ensure their data entry is complete, and allows the department to verify the data for every school across the territory.

This process is completed with the involvement of the principals to clarify data. It also means the data on Sept. 30 is unlikely to be the same as the data “as at Sept. 30” in the majority of cases.

There are many reasons why the numbers entered on Sept. 30 may differ from the final number that is reported “as at Sept. 30.” For instance:

• A student may be registered in more than one school.

• A student may have withdrawn or been deleted from the school but the data entry was not completed prior to Sept. 30.

• A student is classified as a non-attender if there was less than 40 per cent attendance (other than excused absences).

• A student does not have a timetable assigned in the system, but is marked present. This can occur if a student is registered but has not been assigned to any classes, thereby meaning they are not, in fact, attending school.

• The data entry for class attendance prior to Sept. 30 may not have been entered until after Sept. 30, resulting in students defined as “non-attenders” and excluded from the SER.

It is important to note the department has no interest in reducing the number of teachers or funding provided to DEAs. The department is continuously advocating for more resources for schools and DEAs to ensure students and staff are well-supported to achieve academic success.

The SER formulas are cabinet-approved, and positions and funding are received upon request based on those formulas.

However, should the department not complete its due diligence in ensuring the attendance numbers reflect actual attendance as at Sept. 30, the department would be in a very tenuous position.

The department recognizes the limitations of the current formula and is working on the development of a new formula for consideration. Consultations with DEAs and other stakeholders were completed in August 2018, and the new formula will mitigate many of the concerns of the current SER formula.

Funding formula for all DEAs and schools

The Department of Education, through the Education Act, ensures schools meet or exceed the national average of student-to-educator ratio as published by Statistics Canada.

My department’s formula exceeds the legislative requirement, as a number of positions have been excluded from the SER, such as learning coaches and language specialists.

The most recent published SER is 13.8:1. Schools are divided into four different categories:

Note: Kindergarten students are counted as 0.5 as they only attend half the day.

The funding formula for DEAs was increased after the 2008 Education Act was enacted and is as follows:

• Base funding of $55,000 to $75,000 depending on the number of schools.

• Enrollment based funding of $848 per student for grades 10-12

• Enrollment based funding of $796 per student for grades K-9

• Additional freight-factor for materials and supplies for each community outside of Iqaluit

We are confident this will help clarify to your readers what the SER process and funding formula is, and what factors the department has to consider before determining a final count of student enrollment.

Jean-Philippe Laprise
Department of Education
Government of Nunavut


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