REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says it’s likely the province will provide millions of additional dollars to squeezed classrooms after thousands rally to protest underfunding.
Moe told reporters Monday the province is listening to concerns raised by teachers and parents about funding constraints that they say have led to program cuts, fewer supports and teachers working on overdrive.
The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation organized a rally of more than 3,000 people on Saturday to raise concerns about the lack of funding.
“I think what’s more important than any of that is — if you’ve attended the rally or if you’ve reached out in any other way, or you have a parent of a child in school — that your government is listening, your government have been listening and will continue to listen,” Moe said.
Speaking later with reporters, Education Minister Dustin Duncan said the additional dollars are likely to be provided before November.
He did not say how much the government would provide but said it would likely be in the millions of dollars.
Moe and Duncan were not at the rally but said they had been meeting with school board officials about funding issues.
The teachers federation has long demanded the province increase operational funding for classrooms because many schools have been brimming with several thousand more students than projected, resulting in schools having to stretch their resources.
They say the increase in enrollment has been due to higher immigration numbers as more newcomers send their kids to school.
Opposition NDP Leader Carla Beck, who was at the rally, said she’s glad the province plans to make more money available but added the government has a lot of work to do to improve relations with teachers.
“I think to get the respect that we need on education, it’s going to take a new government,” he said.
Beck said funding should increase should at least keep pace with inflation and increased enrollment. She noted that additional language and mental health supports are needed.
“We have to decide, do we want to be able to offer to every child in this province a quality education that is not only to benefit that child, but it’s going to benefit the province, economy and future of this province in the long run ?” she said. “This is a government sitting on record windfall revenue. They’re making the choice right now not to properly fund it.”
The province plans to spend $2.04 billion on school operating funding this year, an increase of $49.4 million.
Duncan has said the funding is helpful, but the teachers federation says it doesn’t cover what’s needed.
The minister also pointed to a new government-funded online learning service, which he said should save schools $13 million per year because it’s to free up resources in classrooms.
Moe added the province is looking at potentially new funding models to make it easier for school divisions to budget in the future.
The government is also waiting on recommendations from a committee that is looking into how classroom sizes should be changed.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2023.