Budget cuts hitting the wrong note in Manitoba

Click to play video 'Budget cuts hitting the wrong note in Manitoba' Budget cuts hitting the wrong note in Manitoba

Budget cuts at the St. James-Assiniboia School Division are meaning big problems for musically-inclined Winnipeg students.

A 3.4 per cent slash has hit the Sturgeon Heights Collegiate hard this week, prompting for one teacher layoff and two extra-curricular band programs — wind ensemble and jazz combo — to be slashed from school programming.

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Today, students rallied inside their gymnasium over the lunch hour to pay tribute to their music teacher and to look ahead to a future without programs they hold dear.

“This program is not a just a program to most of us,” said Emily Villanueva, a grade 12 band student that is being directly affected by the cuts.

“It’s an outlet and a way to express how we feel because we can’t always get the words out and so we express it through music.”

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Villanueva is just one of dozens of students upset not only over the programming change, but of the loss of their teacher Jeff Johnson. Johnson had been directly involved with the school band for years, and according to students, was a vital part of music classes.

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“Mr. Johnson is an extremely important figure to all of us and we need him,” said Villanueva. “He is more than just a teacher. He’s an inspiration to all of us.”

Today, the rally held inside of Sturgeon Heights featured signs, songs, and speeches about the budget cut.  Students were joined by school alumni and student families as they fight against the changes.

Grandparent Ray Johns said the rally was an emotional hour for those involved.

“There’s been a lot of tears since the announcement has been made,” he said outside of the school. “It’s not just one day of sorrow and (now they’re) over it. They’re not getting over it.”

“What the school board and government has done has shown these kids that they don’t matter.”

When asked for comment Friday, Education Minister Ian Wishart said the cuts were the choice of the school board.