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In about-face, N.W.T. gov't says it will fully fund junior kindergarten this fall

The N.W.T. government will fully fund the expansion of junior kindergarten to all communities this fall, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment now says.

School boards won't be asked to pitch in, according to education department

Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod delivers the budget speech to full crowd on Wednesday. (CBC)

The N.W.T. government will fully fund the expansion of junior kindergarten to all communities this fall, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment now says.

The message completely upends one put out by Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod and Education Minister Alfred Moses on N.W.T. budget day.

Olin Lovely, an assistant deputy minister in the department, told CBC News Thursday that his department will provide the full budget for the program this fall and every year going forward.

Lovely broke down the government's $5.1-million budget as follows:

  • the $1.5 million announced in the Wednesday's budget,
  • an extra $2.7 million, also announced in the budget, that McLeod said would not be available until 2018 at the earliest but that, according to Lovely, will be provided in time for this fall,
  • and another $900,000 that the department has found internally, according to Lovely.

Asked if those combined amounts will allow for full implementation of junior kindergarten in all communities this September, Lovely said, "That's the plan."

"The funding will be ongoing and it's going to be added to the school board budgets each year," he added. 

'If I wasn't confused before, I am now'

The confusion sown by the government's inconsistent messaging was evident in the legislative assembly Thursday.

Education Minister Moses was repeatedly asked if the government is going to fully fund the new program when it begins in the fall. 

"Yes, I do realize I could have been a bit clearer in my answers to questions about junior kindergarten yesterday [Wednesday]," he said, before reading from what appeared to be prepared answers.

He then offered the same numbers that Lovely did, but that still didn't clarify things for his questioner. 

"If I wasn't confused before, I am now," said Shane Thompson, the MLA for Nahendeh.

"Are we asking the [school] boards to provide [funding]?"

Lovely, of the education department, confirmed school boards and education authorities will no longer be asked to reallocate some of their funding for junior kindergarten.

"That is no longer the case with the additional monies that have been announced," he said.

The education department also seemed to disagree with the finance minister about the prospect of the program launching across the entire territory this fall. 

On budget day, McLeod said, "Not all the communities in the territory are ready for junior kindergarten."

Lovely said, "As far as I'm aware, all of the communities are ready." 

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Journalist at CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

with files from Juanita Taylor and Richard Gleeson

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