6 new K-12 schools planned as Sask. 2019 budget pours $95M into new buildings
Saskatchewan government has invested $1.7B in education capital since 2009
Spending for kindergarten to Grade 12 education in Saskatchewan is expected to increase by $26.2 million in 2019-2020, the province announced in its latest budget — and there's a big boost allocated for the construction of new schools.
Capital spending in K-12 education, including money for the construction of new schools, increased $20 million over last year in the 2019 budget, which was unveiled Wednesday.
The total K-12 education budget is $1.9 billion for 2019-20.
In a document released alongside the budget, Education Minister Gord Wyant said the government is listening to concerns from across Saskatchewan.
"As a result of those conversations, we will not only be maintaining operational funding, we are increasing it, outpacing enrolment growth," he said in the news release.
In last year's provincial budget, the government restored $30 million in funding for K-12 education after $50 million was cut in 2017.
The outcry from educators and concerned citizens, plus protests, was enough to prompt the government to restore some of the funding.
The increase in 2018 fell short of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association's call for full restoration of $54 million. It was earmarked for the hiring of up to 400 teachers and support staff.
Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation president Patrick Maze still feels the funding in this year's budget falls short, "but it's a good start," he said after the spending plan was released Wednesday.
Maze says he's been encouraged by the open dialogue between education stakeholders and Education Minister Gord Wyant.
"We're looking forward to making sure that the money that has been allocated for education is spent in our classrooms and that it gets to the areas of need," said Maze.
This year's budget provides $39 million for K-12 classroom initiatives, up from $35.8 in 2018.
According to Finance Minister Donna Harpauer, the government will continue to pursue the construction of joint-use schools when appropriate, despite the maintenance and interest price tags.
"We have a lot of aging schools still around our province, and yes, we built a number of new schools," she said.
"But the PMR [preventative maintenance and renewal] dollars are extremely important to our school divisions in order to maintain all of our schools across the entire province," she said.
She referred additional questions about the PMR model and joint-use schools to Education Minister Gord Wyant.
At least one critic warns the government that while the increases to education funding are welcome, they may not be enough.
"We're seeing an increase that is likely going to fall short of all our cost drivers this year," said Saskatchewan School Board Association president Shawn Davidson.
He says there is an increase to the teachers' collective bargaining agreement, which should cost about $10 million.
Other expenses include enrolment growth. About 1,000 more students are expected to enroll in Saskatchewan schools this year. Davidson said that amounts to another $10 million or more in expenses.
More students, more schools
Saskatchewan's K-12 student population has been growing for years, and the government has consistently added schools to the 27 school divisions to accommodate them.
This year's budget allows for the development of six more:
- In Regina, a joint-use school will replace École St. Pius X and Argyle Elementary Schools.
- In Moose Jaw, four more schools — Sacred Heart, St Mary, Empire, and Westmount — are being consolidated into one.
The schools aren't under construction yet, and $3 million is set aside to plan and design those projects.
Another $250,000 will be used to determine the scope of a replacement for Saskatoon's St. Frances Elementary School.
Ground has already been broken in Rosthern and Weyburn, where $29 million is allocated for more consolidation projects.
Many schools in the province have been using "portable classrooms" as instruction spaces while they wait for replacement schools to be built.
Others simply have no room for all the students. Libraries, gyms, and other non-traditional classrooms have been used as homerooms in Saskatoon.
More investments will be made to create relocated classrooms — up to $6.4 million.
The largest chunk of capital spending in education will be used to maintain the buildings. Almost $60 million is expected to cover preventative maintenance, renewal, and emergency funding.
More Saskatchewan budget news
- A previous version of this story stated $250 million will be used to determine the scope of a replacement for Saskatoon's St. Frances Elementary School. In fact, it is $250,000.Mar 20, 2019 3:35 PM CT