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Shortage in Saskatchewan school funding causes growing pains, educators say

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan educators navigate resource shortages'
Saskatchewan educators navigate resource shortages
A Saskatoon teacher says his job has become more challenging has class sizes continue to grow. As Kabi Moulitharan tells us, educators are pointing fingers at the government for not doing enough to achieve quality education. – Jan 20, 2023

Classroom sizes across Saskatchewan have become an issue for many educators as the province sees more and more kids enrolled in its schools.

Darcy Warrington, a teacher in Saskatoon, says oversized classes are creating unnecessary hurdles for his students.

“As a result of these large class sizes, two students had to share with another two students,” Warrington said, describing a situation where his school didn’t have enough snow shoes for his class.

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He says this is a situation that’s becoming more and more common, noting that teachers are having to adapt.

“It’s coming down to we need more resources, whether it’s human resources or physical resources like computers or snow shoes.”

He said in some cases they’ll have upwards of 60 kids in the gym.

“How do we afford these extra components to achieving goals in the curriculum without more resources?”

Warrington said in his 15 years of teaching classroom sizes have grown, but the government funding schools have received as a result of more kids in the classroom is a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed.

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon Board of Education calls for long-term funding after one-time offset'
Saskatoon Board of Education calls for long-term funding after one-time offset

“The great teachers out there in our city and our province are making do with what they have and it’s about time the government steps forward and provides more for us.”

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Warrington said having to share equipment is preventing kids from achieving their goals as quickly as they could.

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“It just becomes more challenging for students, and we want to make it easier for students.”

He said he hopes there’s a better look at the numbers going forward.

“We have a two per cent increase in student population, that should be reflected in our province’s educational budgets.”

Nathan Bromm, vice president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, said he’s been hearing similar concerns across the province, in both rural and urban settings.

He said in the past schools have been able to accommodate larger class sizes but noted that underfunding has changed that.

“It seems that schools and school boards have been so short on resources that sometimes now our class sizes are so large, especially in the last couple years, many school boards have been forced into changing their staffing formulas,” Bromm said.

He said in the instance of Warrington’s situation, he noted that snowshoeing is an example of an outcome in the Saskatchewan physical education curriculum to do an activity outside of the gym, adding that it should be a relatively affordable activity to accommodate.

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“We’ve heard about not having enough chairs and desks in classrooms.”

Bromm noted that in some cases, even if schools can get enough chairs and desks, the size of the room where the class takes place may not be large enough to fit everyone.

Bromm says Saskatchewan schools have more students than they’ve ever had, but less funding is creating a compounding problem.

He noted teachers have been trying to adjust to the issue, but that’s resulted in things like programming getting cut, borrowing of resources, or alternative plans.

“Teachers are creative and they do those things, and sometimes they can find good alternatives, but at the same time that’s frustrating for educators because they want to provide quality opportunities.”

School division student enrolment in Saskatchewan. Government of Saskatchewan

Bromm says the Saskatchewan government frequently touts record revenue coming in despite inflation, with projections looking good.

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He said he’d like to see that same government invest in education.

“What we need is that sustainable funding plan so that it’s not just a one-year fix, and that we’re working on the same challenges in the coming years.”

Global News reached out to the Ministry of Education for comment and received a statement.

“The Government of Saskatchewan wants all students to have the resources and supplies they need to be successful at school.”

“Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions will receive $2 billion through the school operating grant for the 2022-23 school year, an increase of $44.9 million or 2.3 per cent over the 2021-22 school year.”

“This is the largest school operating funding in the province’s history and will provide $6 million for additional classroom supports, fully fund the 2 per cent teacher salary increase and provides an additional $15.5 million to support higher than projected enrolment growth for the 2022-23 school year.”

The statement added the government also gave $7 million for school divisions to hire up to 200 educational assistants for the 2022-23 school year.

“Government also announced that it is providing divisions with a one-time investment of $20 million for the 2022-23 school year to assist with increased fuel and insurance costs.”

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“School divisions have the responsibility to make decisions around what resources are provided at their schools to meet local priorities and address the needs of their students.”

“Saskatoon Public Schools will receive $254.1 million in operating grant funding for the 2022-23 school year, an increase of $9.3 million or 3.8 per cent from the 2021-22 school year.”

“Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools will receive $194 million in operating grant funding for the 2022-23 school year, an increase of $7 million or 3.8 per cent from the 2021-22 school year.”

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