Chinook School Division says it will cut 20 teaching positions due to shortfall in Sask. budget
Letter from officials says budget did not provide funding to cover increase in salaries, inflation
A school division in southwestern Saskatchewan says shortfalls in the provincial budget mean it will have to cut 20 teaching positions.
The Chinook School Division informed staff members of its plan in a letter distributed internally on Wednesday, a copy of which has been obtained by CBC News. A separate letter to parents and students is set to be distributed Thursday.
The division, which has schools in Swift Current and Maple Creek, says the budget did not provide enough funding to cover a projected increase of $1.5 million in salaries for teachers and education assistants, as well as other "inflationary costs."
"Chinook is not receiving adequate provincial funding to support our current staffing levels," the letter reads. "With limited options available to us reduce costs, we are left with no choice but to make reductions in staffing."
In an interview on Thursday, the division's board chair Kim Pridmore, said it was not an easy decision.
"It will be devastating in many buildings," she said.
Saskatchewan Teachers Federation president Patrick Maze said the news of jobs cuts isn't something that surprised him.
He attributed the layoffs to years of education under-funding by the provincial government.
"I wouldn't be surprised to hear other school divisions having to make similar difficult decisions based on what they've received from the provincial government," he told CBC News.
Cuts contrast with minister statement
The reasons provided by the Chinook School District contradict comments made by Education Minister Dustin Duncan when the provincial budget was released.
At the time he said he had no concerns with inflation, saying costs in the province's education sector "weren't really driven by inflation."
The education budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $3.8 billion, an increase of $47.2 million, or 1.3 per cent from the previous year.
"If you look at the fact that our major cost is our teacher salaries and that's fully funded at two per cent, so that really isn't affected by inflation. Some of our other cost drivers within the education sector aren't really driven by inflation," Duncan said.
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On Thursday, the minister left a sliver of hope saying there is still time to review the budget before his final sign-off in June.
However, he dismissed concerns about the quality of education available to students in the Chinook School District.
"What they've put out there publicly in terms of the number of teachers that they may need to reduce and what we are expecting and what they're expecting in terms of enrolment, I don't think it will necessarily have that big of an impact," Duncan said.
The division said many of the cuts to 20 teaching positions will be achieved through attrition as well as a one-time retirement incentive offered to teaching staff.
The budget shortfall also affects educational assistants who will have their work schedules reduced by 30 minutes a day for full time positions to "protect as many educational assistant positions as possible."
The letter also references further impending cuts in various departments, including removal of extra funding from school budgets and a decrease in the number of buses being purchased.
The goal is to offset its predicted total $5.1 million deficit going into the 2022-2023 school year.
Pridmore says that even if the province were to somehow cover the $1.5 million needed to stop the positions from being slashed, the cuts may have been inevitable.
The problem is the compounding nature of the province not covering costs that rise with inflation, she said.
"Inflation is hitting us in every school, in our division and around the province, from the rising cost of utilities, the rising cost of building materials, the rising cost of contracts and the labour to go along with it. So inflationary costs are just killing us," she said.
- A previous version of this story said the Chinook School Board would remove "an unspecified number of substitute teachers." In fact, the letter referred to the removal of a sub allocation for school budgets which is extra funding for local schools.Mar 31, 2022 12:14 PM CT
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