When you read the Liberal platform, the headline to the education section is, "Education isn't a line item in a budget, it's our future." But in a television advertisement, the party looks to the past to give the NDP a failing grade.
The ad makes three basic claims:
- "The NDP government has cut $65 million from Nova Scotia classrooms."
- "Leaving Nova Scotia with second lowest per student funding in Canada."
- "They've wiped out over 700 teaching jobs."
Let's take a closer look at each one of those.
According to the figures from Statistics Canada for 2010-2011, Nova Scotia's spending on education per student is actually the third lowest in the country — not the second. That’s ahead of Prince Edward Island and British Columbia, but well behind Alberta, which leads the country.
- Prince Edward Island: Lowest at $11,360 per student.
- British Columbia: 9th lowest at $11,832 per student.
- Nova Scotia: 8th lowest at $11,971 per student.
- Alberta: Highest at $13,154 per student.
The advertisement suggests the New Democratic Party has cut $65 million from funding, but according to documents provided by both the Department of Education and the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, the cuts are actually closer to $34.8 million.
The Liberals say the $65 million used in the ad reflects the true costs of the cuts when you factor in teacher salary increases and inflation.
As for the 700 teaching jobs supposedly cut, the Liberals say they got that number by consulting with the school boards and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. The Department of Education says the number is actually 615 full time teacher equivalent positions.
Now here's what the ad doesn't tell you:
Since 2009, enrolment in Nova Scotia schools declined by almost 8,000 students — from 130,550 students to 122,643 students in the 2012-2013 school year. That works out to a cut of one teaching job for every 13 fewer students. When you look at the ratio of students per teachers in our province, that number is exactly the same as it was four years ago.
Parents and educators are concerned about class sizes and each party is promising to make them smaller.
The Progressive Conservatives say they will make it law to cap all elementary class sizes at 25 students.
The Liberals are promising to limit primary to Grade 2 classes to 20 students, with a maximum of 25 students for Grades 3 to 6.
As for the NDP, they already have a cap of 25 students for Grade Primary to Grade 3 with a promise to extend that cap to Grade 6 by 2016.
Class sizes vary from school to school, but according to the Department of Education, the average elementary class size in Nova Scotia is now just under 22 students. That means all these promised caps pretty much reflect the reality in most Nova Scotia elementary schools.