Premier Scott Moe, education minister promises more funding following calls from teachers’ federation

Premier Scott Moe as well as the province’s education minister announced the possibility of increased funding for school divisions after defending their absence from an education rally over the weekend.

“Your voices are being heard, not just Saturday but the lead up to that as well,” Moe told reporters, referring to the rally, following the question period on Monday.

Education minister Dustin Duncan said the government will be providing more funding for higher than predicted enrollment in some Saskatchewan schools.

“As the premier indicated, this year, we know that the enrollment issues that school divisions are facing from last year haven’t aborted. So, we will make a mid-year adjustment as well, this year,” he said.

“I’m listening to what’s being said. I think the fact that we did mid-year, in-year adjustments last year, both on inflation as well as a few months later on enrollment growth, shows that the government is trying to be responsive to the concerns that have been raised by not only school boards, but teachers and parents.”

Duncan said he would be meeting with school divisions and the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) in the coming weeks to discuss funding needs.

“Without putting a dollar amount, I think we are talking millions,” Duncan said, in response to being asked how much more funding school divisions would receive.

According to organizers, thousands attended the ‘Rally for Public Education’ in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature on April 29.

The event, organized by the STF, focused on the need for increased funding for education in the face of inflation pressures and increased enrollment.

“I think that the fact that 3,000 people, teachers and supporters on the front steps of the legislature sent a clear message to this government may have finally gotten through to them,” Opposition Leader Carla Beck told reporters.

The province received scrutiny for not attending the weekend rally during the question period.

The premier said he wasn’t aware of any Sask. Party MLAs attending the rally.

Moe and Duncan were both in Washington DC last week, meeting with government officials and attending conferences in the US capital.

Beck criticized the government for claiming the 2023 education budget is a 6.7 per cent increase over the previous year during the question period on Monday.

“School divisions told the [education] minister very clearly … this budget represents merely 0.7 per cent of an increase to operating over last year’s budget. The minister knows full well that’s the case.”

While optimistic with the possibility of increased funding, Beck believes that damage has already been done to teaching staff.

“The cuts that were necessary because of the underfunding in this year’s budget have already meant that there were teachers last week and again this week who are hearing about cuts to their schools and cuts to their positions,” she said.

“I think in the days and weeks to come as school boards are finalizing their budgets, we’re going to hear more and more. People who are going to be losing their jobs outright or through attrition.”

Beck said the rally over the weekend showed a vital profession in the province going through a crisis.

“It was a group of people who have had enough,” she said.

“A group of people who are not going to be quiet anymore and watch the profession they love, our education system, continue to be decimated.”

‘PROVINCE STILL NOT LISTENING’

The Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) said that despite claims from both the premier and education minister, the province still doesn’t listen to them.

“Our public education system is severely underfunded and requires an estimated $400 million to restore funding back to 2012 levels when Saskatchewan led the country in per-student funding,” STF president Samantha Becotte said in a news release.

According to the STF, there are 377 fewer teachers now than there were in 2020-21.

The STF also said the “crisis in public education is not the result of an unusual amount of sudden immigration,” but the province’s education budget continues to get smaller.

According to the STF, Saskatchewan’s education budget has gone from 13.5 per cent in 2018-19 to 10.9 per cent in 2023-24.

As a result, the STF said there have been numerous cuts to support and services.

From 2017-18 to 2021-22, the STF said cuts include 13.5 per cent to English as an additional language teachers, a 16.2 per cent reduction in teacher counselors, 64.5 per cent reduction in teacher librarians and a five per cent reduction in teacher coordinators .

According to the STF, teachers’ salaries are not the driver of increasing costs.

“Between 2016 [and] 2022 teacher salaries fell below the consumer price index five out of seven years.

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