nb-alward-platform

Premier David Alward promised during the 2010 election that he would not cut any teachers if elected. ((CBC))

Premier David Alward's election campaign promise not to cut teachers is coming under fire as school districts react to his government's edict to reduce their budgets.

The Progressive Conservative government has forced every department to trim their budgets in an effort to eliminate the $449-million deficit.

The Department of Education has imposed a two-per-cent budget cut on district education councils, but left it up to the local officials to decide how to implement the reductions.

School District 8, which represents anglophone schools in Saint John, has already warned the Alward government's decision could see fewer teachers showing up to schools in September.

Susan Tipper, the district superintendent, told CBC News last week that she's been instructed by the Department of Education to find $2 million in savings.

"There will probably be somewhere in the range of 50 to 60 who may not be recalled," Tipper said.

Tipper said there's no way around cutting the teaching positions.

"We have a responsibility to look for ways to do things more efficiently. And I have full realization and Minister [Jody] Carr has full realization that this is not easy but we cannot afford not to."

Other school districts have warned that teacher cuts could be in the offing.

The District 1 Education Council, which represents francophone schools in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, has steadfastly refused to implement the department's mandated budget cuts.

Ernest Thibodeau, the council's chairman, has said he would need to cut roughly 10 teachers or 45 teaching assistants if he were to adhere to the government's demand.

But the teacher reductions or threats of cuts stand in contrast to the commitment Alward made on the hustings last fall.

Alward held a press conference on Sept. 7, 2010, to outline his party's education platform. It was the second week of the election campaign and while his party had been talking about the importance of fiscal restraint in other areas of government, he said education would be different.

"What we've said going forward is that we will not cut teachers going forward. We will ensure that the number stays as it is today," he said at the news conference.

"We have made a very direct commitment that we are going to keep the number of teachers that we have we are going to focus on investments in the classroom and we will not reduce the number of teachers like this government has," he added.

In fact, three times in the space of three minutes Alward made the promise not to axe teachers.

Alward was clear that he would retain teachers even in the face of declining enrolment to lower teacher pupil ratios and improve learning despite budget pressures.