Budget cuts will 'gut' schools: boards
School board representatives from across Nova Scotia say parents should brace themselves for cuts to programs and services at public schools as the province attempts to balance its books.
School board officials met in Halifax over the weekend and discussed proposed cuts totalling as much as 22 per cent over three years.
"Going to a 22 per cent cut is just going to tear the guts out of the school system," said Vic Fleury, the president of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association.
In October, boards were asked by provincial officials to determine what the impact of a $200 million cut to public education over three years would be. In addition to budget cuts of up to five per cent, the $200-million figure includes school boards absorbing cost pressures such as higher electricity, fuel and labour costs.
Many school board members said they resent the province billing itself as a champion of the knowledge economy while preparing to reduce what it spends to educate its children.
"Deciding that 22 per cent is what they're looking at — that's their target — I don't think the public has much choice other than to fight back," said Lorne Green, the chair of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
"This is our future. We had the minister down last week and she said the best investment the government can make … is in education. That's quite a statement to make and then ask us to reduce our budget by 22 per cent."
Fleury said although enrolment in public schools is declining by about 3,000 students each year, school boards still have to provide essential services such as bus service and high-speed internet access at schools.
Salaries account for most of the boards' spending and Fleury said the proposed savings can't be made without increasing class sizes and decreasing the number of staff.
"If they follow through with this 22 per cent, there are going to be layoffs and we're not just talking about teachers, we're talking about bus drivers, we're talking about maintenance personnel," he said.