Rumours swirl as NSTU calls on education department to answer programming concerns

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WATCH: As the school year winds down, many questions are swirling about potential cuts to Nova Scotia's education budget and how it will affect student programming. Jesse Thomas reports – May 10, 2019

Parents, teachers and union officials have been pushing the Nova Scotia government for more transparency concerning rumoured cuts to education programming for the upcoming school year.

However, the department maintains no supports are being dropped. Instead, it said, they are making further investments

READ MORE: Nova Scotia adds 173 new positions to help with inclusive education

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Paul Wozney wants the government and education department to come clean and provide clear numbers when it comes to next year’s school budget and its programming.

“It looks like allocations that were devoted to provide early literacy support (ELS) have been rolled back,” said Wozney.

The NSTU says that 20 ELS positions are being lost in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education alone.

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Despite the calls for more transparency, Nova Scotia’s Department of Education has publicly stated that staffing assignment changes are always decided around this time of year and that they’re committed to not making any cuts to the system.

But in the absence of a listing of positions, and speculation that funding allocations are changing from previous years, the NSTU says there’s no sugar-coating what’s going on.

“If you’re in one of those schools and you’re a parent and your student has been positively impacted by ELS and now ELS is no longer going to be available to your student, that’s a cut,” said Wozney. “That’s the only thing that you can call it.”

The NSTU and NDP education spokesperson have called on education minister Zach Churchill to release a full report on any changes to the school budget for next year and any changes to programming that may impact students and teachers.

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“How can the department and the regional education centres release statements saying there is no change in budget or access to services when we have heard from so many places that there are cuts?” said Chender in a press release.

“The Minister promised transparency, clear oversight, and a direct line of responsibility to his office when he eliminated elected school boards. The opposite has happened. Instead of a responsive and transparent elected body, we have obfuscation and spin.”

Wozney pulled no punches and called on the government to come forward with more transparency.

“We’ve called on the government to publish or make public a list of all the schools where ELS has been reduced or eliminated so that parents can know what the impact is on their particular school,” said Wozney.

Education Minister Zach Churchill says there’s already been an increase in investment of $44 million dollars for the 2019-2020 school year and that will include 165 new positions in the education system.

“There’s been some questions around the O2 (Options and Opportunities) program, and that program will be fully funded next year,” said Churchill. “We want parents and students to rest assured about that, that’s a program we really value.”

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The confusion around programming and allocation of funds and resources for next year has been creating a wave of back-and-forth arguments on social media. Churchill says rumours circulating are unsubstantiated and creating unnecessary anxiety.

Meanwhile, the transition to the new governance model for the education system is working, Churchill said, and is helping the department better direct its financial and human resources to better meet the students’ needs.

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“We had three independent consultants tell us that the governance structure of our education system was creating inconsistencies in student achievement and outcomes,” Churchill noted.

Churchill indicated the administration system is currently putting the programming and resources in place for next year and all information will be made public and posted on the education website.

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