No guarantee programming, services won't be touched after budget, say Saskatoon school boards

School boards in Saskatoon are echoing the provincial school board association's president's sentiments that funding increases in the provincial budget may not keep up with rising costs.

Saskatchewan's 2019-2020 budget included a $26.2 million increase in funding to K-12 schools, bringing the total expenditure to $1.9 billion.

It also restored $50 million cut from 2017-2018's budget. After protests and debate, the province restored $30 million to K-12 operations last year.

But with increasing enrolment, especially in Regina and Saskatoon, plus the pressures of inflation, educators are preparing to innovate in order to make due.

Opposition critic: 'slow-moving crisis'

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Saskatoon Public School Board Chair Ray Morrison said the last 16 years of budgets have been hard on local schools

"The intensity of need in the classroom has increased in recent years," he said, noting that administration and teachers have "helped us come up with new and innovative ways to help manage things during times of tight budgets."

Morrison praised the $20 million increase in capital spending on K-12 schools, though a forecast of those expenditures would help school boards, he said.

"If we had a five or 10-year plan that said here's the forecast for infrastructure growth across the system, it would help us better plan for our needs in the future," he said.

After Question Period the day after the budget was tabled, NDP education critic Carla Beck had stronger words for Education Minister Gord Wyant.

She called the situation in Saskatchewan classrooms "a slow-moving crisis."

The NDP opposition has been calling for a full restoration of the 2017 cut , plus more to factor for inflation.

Some administrators and education staff had expressed optimism prior to the budget's release, bolstered by Wyant's willingness to meet with them.

"This is a really a missed opportunity on behalf of this minister who has raised expectations and frankly failed to deliver," said Beck.

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The talk of "innovation" in Saskatoon classrooms also posed an issue for Beck 

"We hear innovation as code for doing more with less," she said.

"I would suggest that the funding does not match the rhetoric."

Catholic school board: growth is positive

Diane Boyko, chair of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools board, said the budget shows a commitment to education.

"We've got more commitment of the government to St Frances and we're excited about that," she said. 

The budget earmarked a quarter million dollars for exploration and planning of a replacement to the Saskatoon school.

Matt Howard/CBC

Boyko said she especially valued seeing the community surrounding St. Frances becoming a priority. She said the board works closely with the majority First Nations and Métis families whose children attend the school.

Still, "those inflationary costs that we all have as school boards aren't really going to be met." she said.

She said a schedule of capital expenditures would help her board, as with Saskatoon Public schools.

"We plan for it and every year we wait until budget day to get approval or not [on school board projects]. That's very tough, to do a lot of that pre-planning work without more of a solid commitment," she said.