Disappointment seems to be the main takeaway for Saskatchewan’s education sector after seeing their funding in the new provincial budget.
The 2022-23 budget includes $3.8 billion for education, up $47.2 million or 1.3 per cent from 2021-22.
The province’s 27 school divisions will see $1.99 billion of that $3.8 billion allotted to operating funding for the 2022-2023 school year which works out to a 1.5 per cent increase.
However, that increase comes in well below what many education officials had hoped for.
Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, said Wednesday was a sad day for students.
” I am surprised I was counting on around a 4.5 to 5 per cent increase just to maintain status quo in our schools,” Maze said. “Unfortunately a 1.5 per cent operational increase is far less than that and its not going to be sufficient to maintain programming in our schools and students will suffer from that.”
Maze added that difficult decisions will come in the form of cuts to programs and services that are already underfunded and insufficient to meet students’ needs.
He also claimed that in the past five years, Saskatchewan’s K-12 operational budget has not kept pace with increased costs and enrolment, resulting in a five-year funding shortfall of 10 per cent.
Over at the Saskatchewan School Boards Association, it’s much of the same sentiment.
The SSBA says their boards have worked very hard to find efficiencies with buildings, transportation and office procedure but when the operational funding doesn’t cover inflationary costs, the dollars aren’t there to pay for any investment or additional services that students need.
“Overall, the operating funding is going to fall well short of our increased cost drivers for the upcoming school year. Once again boards of education are going to have to make some very difficult decisions,” said SSBA president Shawn Davidson.
Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili targeted his criticism towards Education Minister Dustin Duncan.
“The minister of education, whose job should be to fight for students to make sure they get everything they need, is instead offering cuts to classrooms again,” Meili said.
“It’s been year after year of this government not keeping up with inflation or the costs in classrooms. As a result we are losing teachers and kids are losing the supports they need to succeed.”
In response, Duncan says during budget deliberations there are lots of competing priorities, and with the education sector, says they are always trying to find a balance between operational and capital spending.
“I will continue to work with those in the sector that may have been disappointed on budget day that they didn’t get more. But it is up … in a number of areas and we’ve created a few new programs that will be well-received,” stated the education minister.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The SSBA added they are encouraged by the budget’s commitment to 200 new educational assistant positions as well as $4.5 million for the establishment of a new school capital fund.
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