Parents and District Education Council members say the Department of Education's decision to withhold 25 to 30 per cent of school budgets is "unacceptable."
Education Minister Jody Carr has released 70 per cent of the budgets for schools in the anglophone sector and 75 per cent of the budgets to schools in the francophone sector.
Carr has said more money could be sent to the schools throughout the year, but his department is still trying to reform an outdated budget system.
"And we're still waiting for the money to come off the money tree in the backyard, and we're still working to see if we can do better with the dollars that we have,” he said.
The education minister could not give an overall figure on how much the provincial government has withheld from schools.
Carr did say, however, some schools may still be waiting for $3,000 and others $50,000 from the provincial government.
The operating budgets, which are at the centre of the controversy, pay for items such as custodial supplies and teacher training.
The sudden uncertainty in the school system is causing an added level of stress for many parents and members of district education councils.
Mark Noel, the chairperson for the Anglophone West District Education Council, said the provincial government’s decision to withhold 30 per cent of schools’ operating budget is not the same thing as a cut.
Noel said he doesn’t know how much of that 30 per cent schools will eventually receive, but he has a feeling that schools will be operating with less.
“I don't think they're willing to commit the 30 per cent of last year's budget, because I think there are cuts, but they don't know where yet,” Noel said.
Carr said the operating budgets for the province's schools will be finalized in November.
Lee Russell, a parent in the Fredericton area, said he’s unsure how the schools are going to function if they have even less money to work with.
"They're down to bare bones, I don't know where the money will come from,” he said.
Jennifer Andrews said she was “pretty shocked” when she heard about the provincial government’s decision to hand over only a portion of budgets for schools.
Andrews said her son told her he is also worried about how these budget restraints could impact on his fifth grade classroom.
“He knew that they were supposed to be getting a smartboard in his classroom and some other computer equipment to do research and he wondered if those were going to be cut,” she said.
Sam McLenaghan, the president of the Home and School Association at Queen Elizabeth School in Moncton, said she understands the budget process is archaic and needs to be changed.
"But here we are in November of a school year and you're all of a sudden saying 'Now here's 70 per cent. You might get your extra 30.' It's unacceptable."
McLenaghan said her group raised $3,000 last year for literary resources for the kindergarten to Grade 4 students.
"That's $3,000 that the district does not pay for. We fundraise, we do everything we can to make sure our children are getting the right materials to learn."
She said the suggestion of shaving any more from an already thin budget means failing children.
"They're our kids — I have one — but I have a school of 370. They're all my kids, so it's definitely emotional, for sure," said McLenaghan.
She said she understands the need to reduce the debt, but "our children deserve better."
Some parents were willing to give the education minister the benefit of the doubt on the school budget issue.
Wallace Carr, a member of the Geary Parent School Support Committee, said he believes the money will still be coming.
“Listen to the minister [on Thursday], he said it wasn't a cut. He said what they've done is released 70 per cent of the budget, and they're going to give them more money as they need it, but they're looking at money,” Carr said.
The education minister is continuing to describe the initial 70 per cent for school budgets as simply a first installment.
The Department of Education has made several high-profile changes in the last two years.
Carr ordered a freeze on out-of-province teacher travel in 2010 and he followed that up with budget cuts for school districts.
The education minister cut the number of school districts to seven from 14 earlier in 2012.