Not Enough Funding says NDP

·4 min read

Even though the Sask. Party has allocated a record $2.66 billion to the education budget, NDP Education Critic Carla Beck criticized the government for fudging the budget numbers and hiding what amounts to a cut to the classrooms in budget 2021.

“Saskatchewan classrooms were overcrowded and under-funded before COVID-19 and the Sask. Party’s failure to contain the pandemic when they had the chance has put our kids in an even tougher spot,” said Beck. “That the Sask. Party government would choose this year - of all years - to cut funding to our classrooms is a shocking betrayal of Saskatchewan kids, families and educators.”

In yesterday’s Education Budget release, the government states, “Saskatchewan's 27 school divisions will receive $1.96 billion in school operating funding for the 2021-22 school year, an increase of $19.2 million. This includes fully funding the 2.0 percent salary increase as part of the Teachers' Collective Bargaining Agreement”.

What the government fails to acknowledge is that the fairly bargained commitment to teachers amounts to $23 million. Meaning that in actuality, the school operating funding for 2021-22 cuts funding by $3.8 million. In a release in response to the provincial budget yesterday, the Saskatchewan School Boards Association states, “It’s important to note though that other inflationary costs are not covered in the increase and therefore school divisions may have difficult decisions to make.”

“This kind of smokescreen by the government and the Minister of Education does a disservice to the school communities and teachers who have worked so hard this past year to give our kids the best education possible in trying times,” said Beck. “The government must immediately reverse this decision and institute a true funding increase, over and above the new contract that the government had to be dragged into signing.”

This comes after Education Minister Dustin Duncan’s announcement that the Sask. Party will be increasing education funding to “historic levels.”

"We are pleased to once again be increasing education funding to historic levels, allowing us to protect our classrooms, build school infrastructure and grow child care capacity for Saskatchewan families," Education Minister Dustin Duncan said. "We remain committed to protecting our school communities as they look to address student needs, as we move toward the 2021-22 school year."

Saskatchewan's 27 school divisions will receive $1.96 billion in school operating funding for the 2021-22 school year, an increase of $19.2 million. This includes fully funding the 2.0 percent salary increase as part of the Teachers' Collective Bargaining Agreement and is in addition to the more than $150 million COVID-19 contingency fund for education that has been available to school divisions and independent schools over the last year to support the ongoing needs of schools during the pandemic.

The more than $150 million is providing school divisions and independent schools with additional staff, substitute teacher costs, IT equipment, PPE and sanitation supplies. Included in this funding was $20.7 million in provincial funding announced on March 11, 2021, to continue to support school divisions and independent schools with these costs as the work to ensure proper support for students is in place for fall 2021.

The budget provides $189.9 million in funding for school capital as part of the province's ongoing capital plan to grow the economy. This is an increase of $22.3 million or 13.3 percent from 2020-21, including $101.9 million to support 21 ongoing capital projects to build 16 new schools and renovate five existing schools; $8.8 million to complete 15 maintenance projects, as part of the government's two-year, $25.9 million commitment; $67.9 million in funding for preventative maintenance, renewal and emergency funding; and $10.33 million for relocatable classrooms.

Funding for child care and early learning in the 2021-22 budget is $100.8 million. This includes $75.5 million for child care, an increase of $2.0 million in provincial funding. The additional funding will increase grants for both new and existing home child care providers. The province is also working to grow the number of available child care spaces in the province. The 2021-22 budget provides funding to create 176 new licensed home-based spaces and 51 new licensed centre spaces, as part of the province's four-year commitment to creating 750 new licensed child care spaces.

This budget provides a nearly $1.6 million increase over last year for community-based organizations for increased costs and to support increased wages for staff.

Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal