Saskatoon public schools could face millions in cuts
Plan would eliminate dozens of positions for teachers, librarians and others
Proposed changes could see dozens of positions for teachers, librarians and others soon cut from Saskatoon public schools, CBC News has learned.
A final decision will be made some time in June, said Saskatoon Public School Division chair Ray Morrison.
The proposed changes are expected to save more than $5 million in an effort to balance the division's budget.
Morrison said cuts became unavoidable after finding out in March what the school board's grant would be from the province.
"There was no way we could maintain the status quo given the dollars in the grant and without having some impact somewhere," Morrison said.
Morrison said there have been extensive consultations with staff, administration, and school community councils to get their input.
"The response we got was ... we should do everything we could to not increase class size."
In most cases, affected staff would be reassigned and not lose their jobs.
But cuts to these programs will have a massive impact on students, said Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation President Patrick Maze.
"We have huge concerns," Maze said. "These cuts are going to drastically affect students."
Maze said he feels sympathy for local officials having to make these difficult decisions. He said the real culprit is the provincial government, which left divisions with little choice.
"They're going to take a lot of heat, whereas the heat should be more appropriately directed straight at government for underfunding education," Maze said.
Morrison said this is the third year in a row that school divisions have had to make significant reductions.
"We're at a point now where unless something changes significantly we're not going to be able to sustain these cuts," he said. "Even though we're not cutting classroom teachers or increasing class sizes we know that these cuts or reductions will undoubtedly have an impact in the classroom."
Cuts affect multiple programs
The proposed cuts include the following positions:
15 English-as-an-additional-language teachers.
The nine remaining secretaries (but all elementary schools will continue to have a full-time administrative assistant).
All six Grade 8 home economics and industrial arts teachers.
Other cuts at the administrative and executive level.
There would also be an average budget cut of six per cent for every high school and elementary school. The division would also draw $1.5 million from its reserves.
Morrison said the school division is one of the last that still offers home economics and industrial arts to Grade 8 students.
And they have the highest ratio of English-as-an-additional-language teachers to students in the province so they are rethinking how those resources are delivered to students.
As part of the proposal, positions would be added in other areas: four high school teachers, 11 elementary school teachers, 18 educational assistants, two special education teachers and one health nurse.
Division officials also noted 21 educational assistants (EAs) were added mid-year this academic year. These EAs will be retained.
Maze said any additions will barely keep pace with the rapidly-growing student population in urban centres. Many of the thousands of new students are newcomers requiring English as additional language teachers, he said.
John McGettigan, president of the Saskatoon Teacher's Association, said the school boards are having to make these tough decisions under duress because of a lack of funding.
He said the problems go back to the provincial budget of 2017-18 where school divisions lost a lot of funding.
"We are still catching up," McGettigan said.
He said one thing that could help the situation is to return some authority to the school division trustees when it comes to setting the mill rate.
"Decisions made locally are always better made," he said.
Morrison said despite not increasing class sizes, he knows the cuts will affect staff and students.
"We knew we were going to have an impact on people's careers and their lives and we felt we had an obligation to give them as much notice as we could to try and be as respectful as we could through that process," he said.
Saskatoon elementary school teacher Jessica Brown was in the legislature Monday.
Brown said class sizes are already too high in many cases and added cuts will hurt students.
"We are already under-resourced, we are already under-funded," she said "Further cuts are only going to make the situation more severe."