June 17, 2019 7:47 pm
Updated: June 18, 2019 7:19 am

Saskatoon Public Schools eliminating positions due to funding shortfall

WATCH ABOVE: Saskatoon’s public school board will be voting to remove more than a dozen EAL teachers from its budget.

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Saskatoon Public Schools (SPS) says a number of support staff positions will be eliminated in 2019-20 due to budgetary impacts as it deals with increasing enrolment.

The board said enrolment projected to be up 1.7 per cent – or 448 students – for the new school year, and is up 3.0 per cent from 2017.

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The increase in student numbers, along with the addition of four new schools, have added operating costs that were not adequately covered by funding increases over the same time period, according to board budget documents.

The Saskatchewan government increased the operating budget to SPS by 1.5 per cent to $229.8 million for the upcoming school year, but that it is only up 0.7 per cent when compared to 2016-17 levels, school officials said.

Due to the funding shortfall, the board said a reduction in support staff is required in order to hire more teachers and other staff to accommodate a growing student body.

This includes eliminating 18.8 FTE (full-time equivalent) teacher librarians and 15.0 FTE EAL (English as an additional language) teachers.

The board said it is also ending the current Grade 8 Home Economics/Industrial Arts program, resulting in a decrease of 4.0 FTE positions.

All secretary 1 positions at elementary schools are being eliminated, and the board said the central office budget includes the reduction of five staff members.

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The board said it will be adding 63.0 FTE positions to accommodate enrolment growth and student need, while maintaining class size ratios in elementary and secondary schools.

SPS said this includes 15.0 FTE teaching positions, 17.5 FTE educational assistant positions, and 4.0 FTE resource room teachers.

Another 21.5 educational assistant positions, which are including in the increased staffing numbers, were added in January.

The board said the focus of its budget priorities is to allocate available resources to give the school division the best chance to meet the education sector strategic plan (ESSP).

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The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) said the board has been forced to decide what is on the chopping block because of a lack of funding.

“When we have budget cuts, it’s often those who are most in need who are affected the most. That will definitely be true for our EAL students in Saskatoon Public,” STF president Patrick Maze told Global News.

He added those students will likely struggle more without these supports in place to help them catch up to their classmates.

“Until you can speak the language at a reasonable level, you just can’t operate in a classroom effectively and we would want the same high-quality for all of our students in Saskatchewan,” Maze said.

Among the goals of the strategic plan is for 80 per cent of students to be at grade level or above in reading, writing, and mathematics by June 30, 2020, and achieving a three-year graduation rate of 85 per cent and a five-year graduation rate of 90 per cent.

The ESSP also looks to achieve a significant improvement in First Nation and Métis student engagement and increase three-year graduation rate from 35 per cent in June 2012 to at least 65 per cent and the five-year graduation rate to at least 75 per cent by June 30, 2020.

The budget document said there are fiscal issues it will address with the provincial government, including adequate support for students with special needs and English as an additional language.

The school division said it will also draw roughly $1.5 million from operating reserves in order to continue with current programming.

The 2019-20 SPS budget will be voted on at its board meeting on June 18.

-With files from Global’s Kyle Benning 

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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