District 1 continues fight over school cuts
Education Minister Jody Carr ordered every school district to trim their budgets by two per cent. So far, only the District 1 Education Council has balked at the minister's directive.
Ernest Thibodeau, the chairman of the District 1 Education Council, outlined the council's concerns over cutting its budget by two per cent during a news conference on Wednesday.
Thibodeau said it's impossible to cut the district's budget without hurting classroom learning.
As a result, Thibodeau said the council has asked district staff to put together a budget with a deficit.
Thibodeau said he's turning the problem back over to the education minister.
"If we would do like government did, to cut unilaterally two per cent everywhere in all the budget items, we would have to fire about 10 teachers and about 45 teachers aides according to the budget that they are giving us," Thibodeau said.
"We're not ready to do that."
The district's ongoing resistance to implementing the budget cut became a political fight on the floor of the legislative assembly on Wednesday.
"It's not fair that one district stands out alone," Carr said.
The District 1 Education Council, which represents francophone schools in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John, has seen its enrolment increase by 13 per cent since 2003. Specifically, its kindergarten population has spiked up by 60 per cent.
Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau questioned Carr over District 1's budget fight on Wednesday.
He said a parents committee in School District 11 also wrote to the minister opposing the cuts.
Boudreau said the concern over the education cuts are "starting to spread" across the province.
At a public meeting earlier this week, Thibodeau asked other school districts to speak out as well.
District 1 represents francophone schools in Moncton, Fredericton and Saint John.
Thibodeau has said the district's enrolment spike in recent years means he needs more funding and not less.
Carr and Finance Minister Blaine Higgs have both criticized District 1 for its ongoing refusal to adhere to the budget cut.
Etienne Paulin, a parent with a child in District 1, said he doesn't think education funding should be cut anywhere.
"District 1 does have some specific features but for us, for the parents, it's a provincial question. Education concerns all the parents, all the children, of all the province, the north, the south, the francophones, the anglophones," Paulin said.
Paulin is organizing several protests against the cuts. He has also started a Facebook page that has about 400 members.
Paulin and other parents are also circulating a petition in schools across the province and encouraging people to make their opinions known on Twitter in the hopes the campaign goes viral.
Aubrey Kirkpatrick, a spokesperson for School District 2, which is responsible for anglophone schools in the Moncton area, said officials are developing an expenditure plan for the coming year that includes the two per cent budget reduction.
The plan will be presented to the District Education Council on June 21.