Sask. education minister to have more control over school spending

Saskatchewan's education minister has introduced legislation to give his office more power over spending in the province's school divisions.

Opposition accuses government of kneecapping boards' ability to make decisions

Education Minister Don Morgan will have the power to direct school divisions to find savings in transportation, salaries and bulk purchases. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Saskatchewan's education minister has introduced legislation to give his office more power over school divisions' spending.

Amendments to the legislation will give the minister more power to direct school boards to find efficiencies in transportation, bulk purchasing and setting common salaries for school division administrators.

The changes are in response to findings from a review of education governance in Saskatchewan, which heard from dozens of groups and thousands of online submissions.

Education Minister Don Morgan said while the government heard clear support for elected school trustees, it also heard a desire for the province to dictate where efficiencies can be found.

Morgan said in consultations, school divisions were supportive of those changes. 

"We would have the ability to say, 'You will have a joint procurement agreement.' They're supportive of doing that," he said.

"We've said to them that we want them to work together with some common bussing. They say they're supportive of doing that."

Opposition education critic Carla Beck says school trustees have been stripped of their power, but are left to take the blame for budget cuts. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

But the Opposition said the government has stripped divisions of the autonomy people wanted for their elected trustees.

Carla Beck, the NDP's education critic, said the minister has signalled "his willingness to really kneecap boards in their ability to make any decisions."

"This is not what people meant when they said they wanted their boards kept," she told reporters. "They wanted local voice kept in education. That has been disregarded and disrespected."

School divisions are already making changes as a result of the provincial budget, including reduced bussing, fewer preschool programs and all-day kindergarten.