Petition against education cuts given to government
Dozens of teachers and principals left the classroom Thursday to attend a news conference at Province House to denounce the government's plan to cut the education budget by $30 million.
More than 20,000 Nova Scotians have signed the Kids not Cuts petition, a protest spearheaded by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the Nova Scotia Federation of Home and School Associations.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil, who also signed the petition, presented it to the NDP government Thursday.
The cuts include more than 600 teaching positions left vacant due to retirements or laying off consultants over the past two years.
"This petition speaks directly to the very real fear that Nova Scotian children — our children — will lose an excellent education system and we all know there's nothing left to cut," Alexis Allen, teachers' union president, said.
The Education Department is on a mission to match personnel numbers to an ongoing drop in the number of students.
"We're are actually not making severe cuts, we're making sure that we are looking at our declining enrolment and rebalancing our system," Education Minister Ramona Jennex said.
"Over a 10-year period, we did lose 30,000 students from our system, and today there are 363 more teachers in our system than there was 10 years ago."
The war of words was not lost on students in Chignecto-Central Regional School Board who took to the streets recently to protest the threatened loss of 40 librarians in their school board.
So far no permanent teachers have or will lose their jobs, but the circumstances under which they work are changing.
For the first time, Cindy MacKinnon, a New Glasgow Grade 1 teacher, has a combined grade.
"One person to 28 students is a lot of ways to divide yourself," she said. "And, right now, I don't think the students get the best education they could have."
The budget will increase the maximum number of students to 29 in Primary to Grade 3.
Education officials say the purpose is to give schools with shrinking populations more flexibility to combine classes in order to keep teachers.