About 40 people burned fake money at the construction site of a new school in Moncton Saturday to protest public-private partnership schools.

The unionized school employees and supporters gathered outside Moncton North School, one of two so-called P3 schools being built in New Brunswick.

Under the P3 model, private companies build and operate and maintain the schools and the government leases the space.

'What this province is doing, and other provinces that are going down the P3 road, are selling off our collective wealth, our public institution, and it is wrong.' —Danny Legere, CUPE

"We're not against new schools, but we want schools that are owned by the taxpayers of New Brunswick, not schools that are owned by multinational corporations and are simply leased back over 30 years," said CUPE spokesman Danny Legere.

"What this province is doing, and other provinces that are going down the P3 road, are selling off our collective wealth, our public institution, and it is wrong," he said.

The protesters argue the P3 model will eventually lead to the privatization of the education system and cost unionized workers their jobs.

N.S. report critical of P3s

The demonstration comes on the heels of a report by the auditor general of Nova Scotia, which found P3 school contracts are costing that province millions of dollars more than necessary.

The Department of Education is failing taxpayers in the management of its contracts with three private-sector developers that manage, operate and maintain 31 schools in the province, said Jacques Lapointe, who released his report on Feb.3.

Under the public-private partnership contracts signed in 1999, the schools were leased to the companies for about 20 years.

But two of the developers subcontracted some of their responsibilities to the regional school boards, which were delivering the services at a lower cost than what was paid to the developers — a difference of about $52 million over the 20-year life of the contracts, according to the report.

Moncton North School, on Ryan Road, will house 650 students, from kindergarten to Grade 8.

The Eleanor W. Graham Middle School, being built on Albany Road in Rexton, will accommodate 350 students.

Both schools are scheduled for completion by September 2010.

Premier Shawn Graham has said the two schools will save taxpayers about $12 million. Private companies can build schools more quickly and cost-effectively than the government, he said.

The provincial government will pay Brunswick Learning Centres $7 million a year for 30 years to build, operate and maintain the two schools, which will cost a combined $40 million to construct.