Prairie Spirit School Division facing additional cuts

A letter being sent to staff and parents of the Prairie Spirit School Division today is highlighting a $3 million budget reduction for the upcoming school year.

Division says 60 education assistants and 14 teachers will be laid off

The Prairie Spirit School Division says it will have to eliminate up to 75 positions. (Andrey Popov/Shutterstock)

The Prairie Spirit School Division says it plans to hand out up to 74 layoff notices to staff in order to balance its $3 million budget deficit in the upcoming school year. 

Board chair of the school division Larry Pavloff told CBC News he's been under pressure for three years from the ministry of education to balance its budget.

On Tuesday, Pavloff said the only way to balance the budget was to cut staff, which makes up about 75 per cent of the division's budget.

"Prairie Spirit's largest budget item is instructional staffing and I'm afraid it's the only place where we can make cuts at this point. Without making cuts to staffing we will not achieve a balanced budget."

The Prairie Spirit Division is made up of 45 schools surrounding Saskatoon.

Last spring, the division had to cut its band program in 17 schools, saying it was a direct result of the province's funding shortfall, although that decision was reversed.

In a letter to parents, the division said it faced more than $4 million in reductions last year due to provincial funding. 

Education Minister disputes school division's claims

Meanwhile, Education Minister Don Morgan disputed Prairie Spirit School Division's claims Tuesday.

"We're deeply disappointed with Prairie Spirit for having chosen to do this," Morgan said. "Sadly, this makes a political issue out of something that ought not be a political issue."

While Morgan acknowledged the school division's population has grown significantly, he questions the division's timing, stating Prairie Spirit is the only group speaking out before the election.

"They're a board that's seen significant growth, and possibly the growth is something they're having a challenge handling," he said. "But we want to work with them and urge them not to take any unnecessary steps that might have to be reversed."

Despite announcing layoffs during an election period, Pavloff said this is by no means and election ploy, rather the school division is simply following labour regulations.

"Reductions in staff will be about 74 in number and we know it will take months for the planning and work to be finalized. It doesn't matter what party is in power," Pavloff said.

"As elected officials in the school division, we have a role to play and our role is to inform those people who elected us and [inform] those impacted by the decisions we make."

Pavloff added he needs to give his staff eight weeks notice and the board can't wait until May to do that.

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