While the Saskatchewan government’s trimmed-down budget estimates didn’t include money for class size and composition, the head of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) welcomed an increase in school division funding.
The province’s 27 school divisions are expected to receive $1.94 billion in operating funding in 2020-21 — an increase of $42 million over last year. The government said the money is due to increasing enrollment, wages and inflation.
STF President Patrick Maze said some of the funding could allow individual divisions to deal with class size and composition.
“We would worry that may not be enough and likely won’t be enough to address the issues,” Maze said.
“At the same point, it’s a good start.”
Student volume and makeup of classrooms have become central issues in stalled contract talks between the STF and province. The union announced sanctions one week before the COVID-19 outbreak forced public school closures in the province.
“Right now, the collective agreement is a secondary concern,” Maze said.
Saskatchewan Education Minister Gord Wyant has struck a committee to look at possible solutions to the problem, and the province has offered to start a $5 million fund for it. However, the government’s position is that the problem is best dealt with outside the bargaining process.
Finance Minister Donna Harpauer said there are ongoing discussions around class size and composition.
“It’s not a challenge that happened overnight and nor do I think it will be an overnight fix,” she said.
The 2020-21 budget estimates, which does not include revenue projections, include capital funding for seven new school projects and three major renovations, according to the province.
Projects include a new joint-use elementary school in Harbour Landing in Regina and the joint-use consolidation of Regina’s St. Peter, St. Michael and Imperial elementary schools.
In Saskatoon, new school projects include St. Frances Elementary School and the consolidation of Princess Alexandra, King George and Pleasant Hill elementary schools.
A new consolidated elementary and high school is planned in Carrot River.