Education cuts may make us leave N.S.: parents

Parents who attended a meeting Thursday in Pictou County say possible cuts to the education budget have them considering leaving Nova Scotia.
Parents attended an information session in Alma, N.S., to hear about the possible impact of cuts to the education system. ((CBC))
Parents who attended a meeting Thursday in Pictou County say possible cuts to the education budget have them considering leaving Nova Scotia.

About 150 people attended an information session at Northumberland Regional High School in Alma, west of New Glasgow, to hear about the possible impact of the cuts.

Bryce Haight, a parent attending the meeting, said his family is contemplating a move.

"If these potential cuts that are being talked about come true, I'll be one of many … that will be looking elsewhere for other education for my family in another province," he told the crowd.

In October, provincial officials asked school boards to determine what a cut of 22 per cent over three years — close to $200 million — would do to public education.

The Chignecto-Central Regional School Board was the first in the province to release the results of that cost-cutting exercise and said it would have to eliminate almost 600 jobs — 280 teaching jobs and 300 other positions — to meet the targets.

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board followed up with a report that said up to 277 teaching positions would have to be eliminated to deal with the potential loss of $25.5 million in that board.

Board officials have said these are worst-case scenarios.

Government will protect programs: MLA

"Obviously the next step is — because we are all worried about our children's futures because they are the future of Canada — we will be looking at other provinces where there are better opportunities for children," said Dr. Changulanda Joshi, who also attended Thursday night's meeting.

Charlie Parker, the MLA for Pictou West, was also at the meeting and said the boards will have to receive realistic budget cut numbers "very soon" so they can make decisions regarding the upcoming school year.

He said the government would not allow certain programs to disappear.

"We're not going to allow the O2 [Options and Opportunities] program to disappear, or special education programs for children or other very necessary programs for the classroom. A lot of those will definitely be staying," Parker told CBC News.

"Maybe the communication hasn't been as good as it could be but from here on out we have to get together and talk."

Earlier this week, Premier Darrell Dexter accused the school boards of fear-mongering and said they were "terribly irresponsible" for creating fear among parents.

"They really have to stop bringing forward these dramatic scenarios with job cuts when they know that we would never allow those to happen," Dexter said at the time.

At Thursday's meeting, board officials with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board maintained they are only working with the numbers provided by the province.

Parker said he heard a "democratic exercise" on Thursday.

"We're all here for the interest of our children. The scenario's been laid out but again, it's not going to be that severe and we just have to work together to find out what we can — within our means — afford for our education system."