Local school divisions hope to see proper funding for Provincial Education Plan

The province released their Provincial Education Plan for 2020-2030 after several delays, and representatives from Prince Albert’s two largest school divisions hope it will receive proper funding.

The long-term Provincial Education Plan focuses on supporting all Pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 students in learning what they need for their future, ensuring they feel safe and are supported. The province says the plan aligns with the goals of Saskatchewan's Growth Plan to build a strong economy, strong communities and strong families.

Saskatchewan Rivers School Division director of education Neil Finch said in an emailed statement that the division is excited to be able to focus in on a plan that will remain in place until 2030

“This allows us the time we need to go deeply into the four priority areas which are learning and assessment, Indigenous education, Mental Health and Well-Being and Student Transitions. Our local Strategic Plan aligns with the PEP,” Finch said.

“We are hopeful that considerations to funding to support the success of the PEP will be in future budget conversation,” he added.

Like Finch, Prince Albert Catholic School Division director of education Lorel Trumier was excited to have a plan in place, while also hoping it will be properly funded.

“We're looking forward to hearing if they're going to fund any part of it and how they're going to fund it,” Trumier said. “That's our biggest question. Mental health and well-being is a big part of the plan, so what's the plan?”

According to the province the plan was developed collaboratively with the education sector, Indigenous organizations, post-secondary education institutions, and school community councils representing parents.

All 27 school boards endorsed the priorities in the plan, including both Saskatchewan Rivers and the Prince Albert Catholic School Division, during the 2022-2023 school year.

The Province says that the priorities unite partners in a shared vision, focus efforts on improved results and encourage collaborative work across the province through four key priorities Learning and Assessment - improve student outcomes through effective assessment and instruction, Indigenous Education - support Indigenous student success, Mental Health and Well-Being - equip students with tools and resources for mental health and well-being and Student Transitions - focus on student and family engagement and prepare students for their future.

The plan builds on many initiatives already underway in the education sector such as Following Their Voices, Leading to Learn, the Integrated Youth Strategy and early learning programs.

Other work being done to support priority areas like mental health and well-being include Mental Health First Aid training for school divisions and the Mental Health Capacity Building initiative, which provides school-based community mental health promotion and prevention. This great work supports a renewed focus on student success.

"We are setting students up for strong Saskatchewan futures by building the skills and knowledge they need for life," Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said in a release.

"This plan is a commitment to Saskatchewan students and their families that government and the education sector will continue to support student success by working together."

The Government of Saskatchewan claims that they have and will continue to fund Saskatchewan's growing schools, a commitment demonstrated through investments such as an additional $47 million provided to support increased enrolment, classroom complexity and educational assistants this school year.

With this funding, Saskatchewan's 27 school divisions will receive an investment of almost $2.1 billion for the 2023-24 school year, an increase of $89.4 million or 4.5 per cent over the 2022-23 school year. Included within the 2023-24 school operating funding is $304 million for supports for learning which is $4.1 million more than 2022-23 budget funding.

Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald