'It represents your values': Sask. education spending concerning for organizations, official opposition
Impact of inflation 'relatively minor' in education sector, says minister
How much money Saskatchewan's government isn't spending on education is a concern to both the official opposition and organizations representing educators in the province.
The province's budget, tabled on Wednesday, showed the budget for the upcoming fiscal year was $3.8 billion, an increase of $47.2 million, or 1.3 per cent from the previous year.
Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation president Patrick Maze was disappointed in the small increase.
"You hear it often that budgets are a reflection of the values of organization, and it's not just numbers on a page, it represents your values," he said in the Saskatchewan Legislative Building's rotunda on Wednesday after the budget was announced.
"Unfortunately it seems that government is really relying on extracting some from education in order to make ends meet."
Maze said the fact education wasn't seeing much of an increase in the provincial budget was frustrating given the fact the budget wasn't balanced — the province still forecasted a deficit by the end of the fiscal year.
Maze said he would have preferred to see a slightly higher deficit if it meant setting up Saskatchewan's students for success in the future.
Maze and the Teachers' Federation weren't alone in their frustrations with the small budget increase.
The provincial budget noted the 27 school divisions in Saskatchewan will see a $29.4 million operating increase in the 2022-2023 school year.
Minister of Education Dustin Duncan though wasn't too concerned by inflation within the school divisions and the impact it could have.
Duncan said he understands the concerns raised by some regarding inflation, but overall the province's education sector costs "weren't really driven by inflation."
"The things that are affected by inflation are relatively minor," he said on Wednesday.
"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."
School boards, NDP also raise concerns
In a written statement the Saskatchewan School Boards Association said the increase doesn't go far enough to cover the cost of operating expenses for school divisions.
The association's statement said boards already worked to find efficiencies in buildings, transportation and office procedures but said when operational funding increases don't cover inflation, the dollars won't be there to invest in services and supports for students in Saskatchewan.
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"School boards may have difficult decisions to make, once again," association president Shawn Davidson said.
Though the association was concerned about the overall budget, it said it acknowledged the provincial government dedicated some funds to new schools in Saskatchewan.
The 2022 - 2023 budget included $95.2 million to build 15 new schools and renovate five schools in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Lloydminster, Yorkton, Lanigan, Carrot River, La Loche, North Battleford and Wilcox.
Saskatchewan's Opposition Leader Ryan Meili, finance critic Trent Wotherspoon both highlighted the province's lack of spending on education in their address to the media on Wednesday, as did education critic Matt Love.
Meili said the provincial government intended to increase Education Property Tax mill rates roughly 2.6 per cent in the coming fiscal year, despite only increasing the education budget by 1.3 per cent.
Love echoed sentiments shared by the Saskatchewan School Board Association and said the increase wouldn't go far enough to cover the operating costs of the education system this year.
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