Cash for independent schools hurts public system: NDP

The Saskatchewan New Democrats say giving money to independent schools will erode the province's publicly supported school system.

The Saskatchewan New Democrats say giving money to independent schools will erode the province's public school system.

Late last year, the provincial government said starting in September, it will give about $5,000 per student to independent schools if they qualify by following the Education Ministry curriculum and meeting other criteria.

Many of Saskatchewan's independent schools are supported by religious groups.

They include such institutions as the Islamic Academy of Saskatchewan located in Prelate, the Seventh Day Adventist Christian School in Saskatoon and Mother Teresa Middle School in Regina.

The government says any money going to qualified independent schools will be new and will not be taken from the existing publicly funded system — which includes public and Catholic schools. 

But NDP education critic Trent Wotherspoon says any new money that might go to these schools should beef up the publicly-supported system instead.

"If this is a matter of evolving to meet the needs of certain students or certain communities, we have the abilities to do that within our public education system," Wotherspoon said.

"It's disappointing to see a government choosing to fragment that system instead of strengthening it."

There are 33 independent schools in Saskatchewan with a total enrolment of about 820 students.

The government says eight of them would currently qualify for the money.