Districts struggle with education cuts
School District 18 pushed through $2-million worth of budget cuts Thursday night but it came with a warning that it will be difficult to find any more savings next year.
Education Minister Jody Carr has ordered every District Education Council to trim its budget and has put them on notice that they will be forced to cut even more next year.
That directive has caused an open revolt with the District 1 Education Council, which is refusing to cut its budget. Meanwhile, other school districts have tried to find ways to reduce their costs but they've expressed their concerns.
District 18 officials and members of the education council put on a brave face as they passed the $93-million budget for 2011-2012 on Thursday night. The district covers anglophone schools in the Fredericton area.
Jeannine St. Amand, the district's chairwoman, said there's nothing left to cut, so new options will have to be found.
"Look at things like transportation, if there are more savings that could be found through payroll, through different ways of doing things that could be shared between districts," she said.
St. Armand said it will be up to the province's education minister to come with a plan before next year's budget process begins.
St. Armand said the cuts mean education in District 18 will suffer in the long term.
"It does mean there's less innovation. So to continue to develop a 21st century learning environment, which is what we have been doing, that will become more difficult," she said.
Some of the cuts affected the technology budget, meaning equipment repairs will have to wait and a summer enhancement program for students at risk of failing has been axed.
District 11's close vote
District 18's concerns with the provincial government's budget cuts are being felt in other districts.
When the budget cuts came to a vote at the District 11 Education Council, which covers Miramichi and Kent County, the council was split.
Roger Martin, the chairman of the District 11 Education Council, had to break the tie by voting for the government-ordered cuts.
Martin said the cuts could be found this year, but he said finding another two per cent in cost savings next year is out of the question.
"Another time, it will not be half and half. Another time, they will probably go the same way as District 1," Martin said.
District 11 had to eliminate the purchase of new books for school libraries.
Martin said the decision will not impact classroom education but the decision will affect students.
Despite Martin's warnings, the Department of Education wants school districts to find another two per cent in cuts next year, and the year after.
Carr said this summer three committees will look at how to help districts find more savings.
"And what I've suggested is, let's get this year done, and let's continue our dialogue on impacts of decisions and budgets," Carr said.