Last Updated: Thursday - 09/30/2010
October 4, 2010
Edmonton Catholic Schools want time to replace casino funds
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Edmonton Catholic Schools may need a long time to wean off their dependency on gambling revenue to pay for extras, says the chair of the school board.
Debbie Engel says the district may need close to a decade to move away from gambling as a source of fundraising or "until we find a way to replace" those funds.
The majority of schools in the district work casinos and fundraise about $6 million every 18 months. The money is used in ways that Engel says are linked to student learning.
"Many of these dollars fund nutritious breakfast and lunch programs and without these funds, many students would not have a healthy meal or go on field trips," Engel and superintendent Joan Carr wrote in a Sept. 21 letter to parents.
Fundraising dollars from casinos also buy computers, purchase library resources and physical education equipment, and fund the building of playgrounds and outdoor classrooms.
Archbishop Richard Smith recently announced a policy banning the use of "harmful gambling activities" for fundraising.
The policy takes effect Oct. 1 but Smith says he recognizes school divisions have become reliant on gambling revenue and "will need some time to transition away from this."
The archbishop plans to meet with school officials to set a timeline for implementing the policy. Edmonton Catholic will meet with Smith Oct. 5.
"We have been in conversations with the archbishop for over a year and he is very aware that we need a way to replace this money," Engel said Sept. 24. "He is committed to working with us on a phase-out period until we can find a way to replace the fund."
On Sept. 20, district officials met with a group of stakeholders to seek solutions to the problem.
Engel said the district is working toward securing sustainable funding through the provincial government to replace the casino dollars.
"Schools should be funded out of general revenue," she said. "We want all of the casino revenues to go to the government and have them distribute them on an equal basis."
She is hopeful that a number of people, not just Catholics, will lobby the government on this issue.
Catholics are not alone on this, Engel said. "There are many people of many faiths that do not want to fundraise through casinos. I talk to parents across the province in both school systems that do not think parents should have to fundraise for educational needs."
Asked how long it would take for Edmonton Catholic to move away from gambling revenues, Engel said, "nine or 10 years or as long as it takes to find a way to replace this funding."
Lori Nagy, spokesperson for Edmonton Catholic, said that out of the district's 87 schools, only two or three do not rely on casino fundraising.
Nagy said that without the proper funding, Edmonton Catholic may become a "disadvantaged district," unable to provide its students with technology.
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