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Saskatoon Board of Education calls for long-term funding after one-time offset

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Saskatoon Board of Education calls for long-term funding after one-time offset
The original budget came with a number of cutbacks, as 12.7 full time equivalent elementary teaching positions and 6.9 full time equivalent positions in secondary schools had to be dropped due to a $4.5-million shortfall – Sep 15, 2022

The Saskatoon Public Schools board of education approved a revised budget after the Government of Saskatchewan announced funding for the province’s school divisions amid inflationary costs.

$20 million was announced back in July and divided among the 27 school divisions, with $1,579,400 going to Saskatoon Public Schools.

The original budget came with a number of cutbacks, as 12.7 full time equivalent elementary teaching positions and 6.9 full time equivalent positions in secondary schools had to be dropped due to a $4.5-million shortfall.

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Saskatoon Public Schools is the largest school division in the province, operating 49 elementary schools, 10 secondary schools, one associate school, and one alliance school.

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It has more than 2,600 professional and support staff on the roster, and teaches roughly 26,000 kids.

Board Chair Colleen MacPherson warned that they had to be careful with the government money, as it was only one-time funding.

“We appreciate the government recognizes we have to draw resources away from our schools in order to cover increasing operating costs,” said MacPherson.

“Putting most of this money back into instruction will provide some relief but we must be judicious because this is one-time-only funding.”

The revised budget saw the money being put towards things like offsetting fuel costs, addressing higher insurance premiums, and supporting an expansion of the Westmount School Heritage Michif Language and Culture program.

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It also allowed for 6.5 more teaching positions, seven new educational assistants, additional resource support for students, and an additional elementary english language teacher.

MacPherson said she expects another deficit in the next budget year as well.

“We approved this revised budget with eyes wide open because there is no guarantee this money will show up in the next budget year. In fact, we fully expect to have to deal with another deficit when the provincial budget comes down in spring 2023,” said MacPherson.

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She added the lunchtime fee that was introduced this year will be staying in place, noting that the funds received from the government were best used for teaching.

“We really felt that focusing these dollars on instruction directly would give the best benefit to the division and to the students and teachers across our division.”

“Until the funding of education in this province fully recognizes our inflationary costs on a regular, ongoing basis, we’ll continue to be in situations where we have to make reductions to our operations at the same time as our enrollment is climbing, and it’s climbing quite dramatically,” noted MacPherson.

She said the Government of Saskatchewan’s growth plan is dependent on a robust education system, noting that teachers help students move out into the world, and into higher education, jobs and the economy.

“If we can’t do the job that we’re supposed to do, then I think the ripple effects of that will be felt for a very long time, and they will be very detrimental ripple effects.”

The Saskatoon Public School division isn’t the only school division feeling the crunch though, as the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) division said they were running into similar issues when they revised their budget as well.

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“The budget needed to be passed, and the government asked us to look in two areas — in transportation and in insurance — and we had the administration at council look at that and put them in those two specific areas, and that’s where our share of that $20 million went,” said Diane Boyko, board chair for GSCS.

“So the $1.3 million covered some of that, but of course we still are looking for dollars.”

President of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association Shawn Davidson said the funding from the provincial government was helpful, but it didn’t fix all the problems.

“Did it go far enough as to allow school divisions to reverse all of the difficult decisions that they had to make back in May and June when they passed their original budget? No, it didn’t,” said Davidson.

“We’ve been calling for the government to actually make a true investment in education for quite a long time now. We actually haven’t seen the government invest in education for a number of years.”

The Ministry of Education responded in a statement late Wednesday afternoon.

“For the 2022-23 school year, Saskatoon Public Schools is projected to receive $252.9 million, an increase of $5.5 million from last school year.” the statement began.

“In addition Saskatoon Public Schools is eligible to receive just over $1 million from the targeted classroom supports fund to hire additional educational assistants and $1.6 million to assist with rising fuel and insurance costs.” the statement continued.

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“Currently, school divisions across the province are working on their revised budgets to have them submitted to the Ministry of Education by the September 20th deadline.” the statement concluded.

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