The government’s refusal to properly fund students and scrapping of the mid-year adjustment will now result in cuts to staff in Regina schools, and the NDP wants a change to the education funding formula before September to solve the problem.
The Regina Public School Board is being forced to cut $2.55 million in positions as part of its efforts to overcome a $6.1 million funding shortfall, the board said late last week. The schools will also have more Grade 1 students walk to school instead of being bussed and eliminate some noon-hour supervision. The Saskatoon-area Prairie Spirit School Division announced more than 40 job cuts a week ago, including more than 21 educational assistants, eight teacher librarians, positions in special education and more.
“Saskatchewan has had a decade of resource wealth,” said NDP deputy leader Trent Wotherspoon. “We could and absolutely should have one of the strongest school systems in the country. But this government didn’t invest properly in students and classrooms. Whether it’s crumbling schools that aren’t getting any repair dollars, overcrowded classrooms and schools that can’t afford supports for students like anti-bullying programs, enough educational assistants or English as an additional language supports, it’s the students that lose when the government has misplaced spending priorities.”
The NDP is calling for immediate changes to the funding formula, to reverse its $18 million cut caused by its scrapping of the mid-year funding adjustment, and to commit that enrolment growth at mid-year will be fully funded.
The provincial government will spend more than ever before, but classrooms are being shortchanged because of the government’s misplaced priorities. Wotherspoon said more teachers and educational assistants could easily be possible by cutting government waste and pet projects. For example, he pointed out, this year the government is mandating a roll-out of the controversial John Black Lean program in education. He also pointed out that millions have already gone to P3 consultants, unsuccessful bidders and negotiators as a part of the more-expensive and lengthier P3-rent-a-school scheme. And, the province shoveled more than $120 million to consultants last year, an increase of 228 per cent.
“Making common sense decisions would save millions – millions that could be spent on more teachers, more educational assistants and addressing bullying in schools,” said Wotherspoon. “This is about giving kids the best education possible, but it’s also about giving Saskatchewan the strongest future.”
The NDP plan for education includes capping class sizes starting with early years and increasing the number of educational assistants. The NDP has also tabled an anti-bullying bill for schools that establishes each students’ right to raise bullying and cyberbullying with their school principal, their right to have a disability accommodated and the right to request and form a gender and sexuality alliance (GSA, also known as a gay straight alliance) in their school.