Local educational leaders are calling this week's budget the heralding of a new beginning in the relationship between government and school divisions.
Tuesday’s provincial budget featured $30 million in extra funding for the education ministry following the shock cut of $54 million last year. It was the fulfilment of a campaign promise made by new Premier Scott Moe. The education budget for 2018-19 is $1.87 billion and Moe said he hoped up to 400 teachers could be hired with the additional funds.
“We’re starting off on a new footing here,” chair of the P.A. Catholic Schools Division George Bolduc told paNOW. “It’s a great beginning and government is proceeding the right way. Of course we’d like our full funding returned and it’ll take time, but we’re in better shape now; at least we had an increase.”
Bolduc stressed it would take some time to digest the full extent of the budget and how things would shape up for the division but suggested the relationship with Regina turned a corner.
“[We were] short-changed last year regarding the resources that were needed. We really appreciate this new appreciation the ministry has for school divisions,” Bolduc said.
Robert Bratvold, the director of education for the Sask. Rivers Public School Division welcomed the $30 million injection of additional funding as “a good sign” although stressed there were still challenges because of the net loss considering the big cuts in 2017.
“Our allocation of funding has increased over last year’s but that doesn’t cover inflationary and fixed cost increases in the system so that poses challenges,” he said. “We’ve grown as a school system with more students and more needs, so we’ll have some difficult decisions and we’ll find out more about those in the coming weeks.”
As for possible job losses Bratvold did not foresee the need for what he called “forced” layoffs but there was the “potential for reductions in the levels of staffing. It may be that we simply can’t add staff. We’ve grown enrolment for the last five years and we’d like to respond to that but we may just have to maintain the status quo.”
Bratvold pointed out an element of the budget that suggested a new trust between government and schools. Last year the province attached certain conditions to how funding could be spent but that conditionality had now been removed.
“Divisions had limitations around their budgets and how they could disperse funds, and now the government has realized they can have confidence in school boards to manage funds appropriately,” he said.
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