Education Minister Jody Carr is challenging the claims of the chairman of the province's largest francophone school district that cuts cannot be made without affecting student learning.

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Education Minister Jody Carr said District 1 can find cuts to its budget that will not hurt classroom learning. ((CBC))

New Brunswick's school districts have been instructed to trim their budgets to comply with the provincial government's effort to wrestle down the $820-million budget deficit.

Ernest Thibodeau, the chairman of the District 1 Education Council, pushed back against that plan this week when he said his district can't make cuts to its budget without compromising the quality of education.

The education minister said he isn't buying Thibodeau's explanation. 

He said the budget is large and there are still places to find savings that would not negatively impact on classroom learning.

"I think out of the $1-billion budget, we can work together and find savings: administrative savings, travel costs, and professional development, some supplies," Carr said.

'It's time this government realize that people are affected by these cuts.'— Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau

"We can find savings. And, I believe that District 1 has the capability to do better."

District 1 represents 15 francophone schools in the Moncton area, Fredericton and Saint John.

Thibodeau said on Tuesday the government's $9.9 million worth of cuts would affect learning.

The provincial opposition is siding with District 1 on this fight, saying the Department of Education is too important and should be spared any cuts.

Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau said it took courage for the district to stand up to the education minister.

Boudreau said the education cuts demonstrate the David Alward government has its priorities in the wrong spot as it attempts to trim the deficit.

"The first cut is the deepest, and this one is going right to the bone," Boudreau said in a statement.

"It's time this government realize that people are affected by these cuts. They're our teachers, our literacy mentors, and most importantly, our children. We chose to invest in our children. Those investments are in danger of being lost."