After months of uncertainty for teachers in Saskatchewan, Premier Scott Moe has announced the government will fully fund a new teachers’ contract, following an arbitrator’s ruling expected sometime in September.
Moe made the announcement Wednesday morning while addressing the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Association conference in Saskatoon.
“We understand that funding the results of this arbitration process may or may not have come out of other resources, some of those resources being in the classroom, and we don’t want that, so we’re committed to funding the results of that process,” Moe said.
Full funding is being taken as a positive step forward in what has been described as a tumultuous relationship between the government and Saskatchewan’s 13,500 teachers.
The announcement is a reversal on the government’s stance just four months ago, when Education Minister Gord Wyant said the province wouldn’t commit to fully funding the contract.
“To ensure that we preserve the investment that we have made and continue to make directly into our classrooms to give our children, that next generation, every opportunity of success,” Moe said.
Teachers in the province have been without a contract since August 31, 2017; talks between the province and the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) broke down earlier this year, and the parties headed to binding arbitration.
That process began in January after the province called for teachers to take a pay cut or roll back benefits.
The STF welcomed news the province would fully fund the contract.
“We’re excited that they got to the right spot,” STF president Patrick Maze said. “It’s the government’s responsibility to fund education, and this is a portion of that responsibility.”
Maze said the STF was upset they had to enter binding arbitration, but feels that teachers will be pleased with the ruling after consultations with education officials and teachers.
In 2016, the teachers’ collective pay increase was around $18 million, or nearly two per cent; half was funded by the province and half was funded by school divisions.
“We were worried they were almost going to shirk that responsibility,” Maze said. “That this shows Premier Moe is not going to shirk his responsibility to fund an appropriate agreement.”
Moe promised during his leadership campaign to increase the budget to school divisions by $30 million in the 2018-19 fiscal year, and stated he would like to see the funding used to hire more teachers and support staff.
Funding to school divisions was cut by $54 million in the 2017-18 budget.
The NDP believes the government made the right decision, but the move should’ve been the province’s plan all along.
“When it comes to who is going to fund the contract, it’s just a matter of course, it’s always got to be the provincial government,” NDP leader Ryan Meili said. “You don’t download that to the school boards, it’s the wrong way to do it.”