The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation pointed out what they are calling favouritism within the education system.
“Despite the disparity in how this money was allocated, there still are no winners. While urban divisions fared better, every school division in the province is drastically underfunded and students are paying the price,” said STF president Samantha Becotte.
“Overcrowded classrooms lacking support for complex student needs is not just an urban problem. These issues are impacting schools across the province, including rural schools.”
Becotte said some school divisions received enough money to maintain last year’s status quo, but others are facing shortfalls of up to $3 million.
She stressed that the status quo still means struggling, noting it would take an estimated $400 million to restore funding to 2012-13 levels.
“This is $40 million for a $400 million problem. It is a deliberate political choice,” Becotte said.
“Saskatchewan has a $1 billion surplus, government just announced record-breaking exports in 2022 of $52.6 billion and has managed to find $57 million for the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Centre. Meanwhile, schools that already exist and have registered students are left scrambling to try and support students.”
The Saskatchewan Distance Learning Corporation (Sask DLC) was announced back in October to offer online school courses in a centralized manner, with student registration beginning back in April.
Becotte compared Sask DLC’s numbers to school divisions that receive similar funding (Northeast School Division and Northwest School Division).
“Both of those school divisions are close to 4,500 full-time equivalent students. When we divide those budgets out that means those students are funded at about $13,000 per student. Looking at Sask DLC, they’ve estimated that they expect to have 2,000 full-time equivalent students.”
She said those school divisions have more than double the number of students and also face significant transportation costs in those parts of the province.
Taking into account that $24 million for Sask DLC was being used for start-up and operating costs, Becotte said each student within Sask DLC is being funded for about $18,000.
Becotte said some students thrive in an online school setting, but said the province’s 27 school divisions already offered that support, noting this just added another layer of complexity to the education system that they didn’t think was necessary.
“I hope it is a success, I hope that it is able to alleviate some of the pressures that we see in our schools, but at this time, to me, it just seems to continue to erode those supports that are able to be provided by our 27 school divisions across the province.”
The Ministry of Education announced a $40-million bump in funding for school divisions across the province, but the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation said last week that the new money wasn’t enough to meet the needs of schools wrestling with high inflation and rising enrolments.
STF gave an example of the Saskatoon Public School Division only seeing an increase of $2.66 million, despite their need for $10.5 million.
Becotte questioned why, when the province ended the 2022-23 fiscal year with a billion-dollar surplus, more money wasn’t given to education.
In announcing the new funding, education minister Dustin Duncan said school divisions will need to submit plans to the ministry on how they intend to use their share of funds for hiring teachers and education assistants. The province will then increase the operating grants to school divisions after Sept. 30, meaning the divisions will not receive new money until the fall.
Becotte noted this issue hasn’t been brought up with the ministry, adding that she hasn’t spoken with them since the announcement of the additional funding on June 1.
Global News has reached out to the Ministry of Education for comment.