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Parents wary of Sask. French school cutbacks

REGINA – The Saskatchewan French-language school division continues to face serious financial troubles.

Over the past year and a half, the Conseil des Écoles Fransaskoises (CEF) has made significant cutbacks in order to pay down its debt.

“There is a lot of anxiety and we want action.”

However, parents of kids who attend one of Saskatchewan’s 14 francophone schools are frustrated and blame the board and the province for its money woes. A meeting was held Wednesday with board members and about 30 parents.

“It just cannot continue,” said Jean-Marie Allard, a grandparent with a child who attends a French elementary school. “There is a lot of anxiety and we want action. We want something done.”

Allard said the board needs to be putting more pressure on the provincial government for an increase in funding.

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The school division has been spending more than it’s been bringing in resulting in a $7.7 million dollar debt as of August 31, 2014.

As a result, the school division began making significant cutbacks about a year and a half ago.

In the past 18 months, 72 full-time positions have been eliminated and there’s a wage freeze for management and support staff. Beginning this school year there’s no longer door-to-door bus service in Regina and Saskatoon.

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“I think we’re at the limit of what we can do in terms of cutting services to kids,” said Donald Michaud, director of education for the CEF. “You can’t make those cuts without having some effect.”

“We are always concerned with the children. It’s who suffers and will suffer for the next 12 years,” said Allard.

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The school division said it has a plan in place to pay down its debt within six years, including contributing $1.3 million this year.

“You could say the low hanging fruit is gone. If we go into any more analysis, it’s going to be difficult,” said Michaud.

Court cases between the school division and the provincial government remain active, over a disagreement in funding. In a statement, the province says the French-school division receives significantly more money per-student than the provincial average.

A review of Saskatchewan’s education funding model is currently underway. Michaud said he hopes it will take into account inflation and wage increases.

READ MORE: Placing blame on cuts to French-language schools