Saskatchewan·SASK BUDGET 2022

'It represents your values': Sask. education spending concerning for organizations, official opposition

Officials hoped to see more spending from the province on education, which saw a 1.3 per cent spending increase in Saskatchewan's 2022-2023 budget announced on Wednesday.

Impact of inflation 'relatively minor' in education sector, says minister

An empty classroom.
Saskatchewan's government says it will spend $3.8 billion on education in 2022-2023, an increase of $47.2 million, or 1.3 per cent from the previous year. (Tobias Arhelger/Shutterstock)

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. 

Patrick Maze, the president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation said he would rather see the province run a slightly higher deficit as opposed shorting education in its budgeting. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

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. 

Education Minister Dustin Duncan said the province is working with rural Saskatchewan communities to expand child care.
Education Minister Dustin Duncan said he wasn't concerned about the potential impact inflation could have on the province's education sector. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

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.

"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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Bryan Eneas

Reporter, Indigenous Storytelling

Bryan Eneas is a journalist from the Penticton Indian Band currently based in Regina, Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC, he reported in central and northern Saskatchewan.