Nfld. & Labrador

Education 'cut to the bone': federation of school councils

There's no way to find more savings in Newfoundland and Labrador's education sector, according to the president of the Federation of School Councils.
The province asked the Federation of School Councils for ways to save money when it comes to education - a request the federation says is impossible. (Tom Woodward/Flickr Creative Commons)

There's no way to find more savings in Newfoundland and Labrador's education sector, according to the president of the Federation of School Councils, even after the group was asked by the minister of Education to do so.

"It's been cut to the bone. We seriously believe if there was any room for cuts, they wouldn't have gone to the front line as deep as they have," Peter Whittle told The Central Morning Show.

The Liberal government has asked all departments and agencies to come up with a 30 per cent savings via budget cuts.

"A cut of 30 per cent, I don't know how we can do it. I just don't see it," said Whittle, adding the province has lost more than 200 teachers in the last three to four years, combined with many other less visible departmental cuts.

Already in trouble

Whittle said the previous cuts have resulted in a education system that doesn't have enough guidance counsellors, mental health specialists and other support staff.

Whittle says the education sector in Newfoundland and Labrador is already stressed to the limit. (CBC)

Whittle added inclusive education, where students of all levels and abilities are taught in one classroom, has not been able to be properly administered under such fiscal restraint.

"It hasn't been sourced properly. As a result, it's created stress for teachers, for parents, for students," said Whittle.

"It's not working the way it was meant to work. As a result, it's causing problems for everyone."

Kibosh on kindergarten?

The Federation of School Councils has spoken to its members for their thoughts on full-day kindergarten, which is set to launch across Newfoundland and Labrador in September at a cost of more than $30 million.

Opinion on the matter is split.

"We really believe it's an important initiative," said Whittle. 

"[But] it's hard to understand how government has money to spend on a new program, when they can't seem to get the delivery of inclusion and other things properly done because of budgetary restraints."

However, the federation has no input on full-day kindergarten, so Whittle admitted whether it goes ahead or not is out of his hands.

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