200 new assistant positions created as part of record $2.88B education budget


The Saskatchewan Government is committing to 200 new educational assistant positions as part of its record-setting $2.88 billion education budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

That $2.88 billion is an increase of $219.9 million or 8.3 per cent from last year. It supports Prekindergarten to Grade 12 students as well as early learners and school and child care staff, according to the province.

“Our government is pleased to provide record investments in education spending again this year,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a release. “A strong economy pays for strong public services, and we can see that in [Wednesday’s] budget with new educational assistants and capital funding that will set up Saskatchewan students for success for years to come.”

The 200 new educational assistant positions will take up $7 million of the education budget. The province said the additional positions will give teachers and students the support they need when it comes to managing growing and diverse classrooms.

Overall, Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions will see $1.99 billion for operating funding for the 2022-23 school year, an increase of $29.4 million or 1.5 per cent. A two per cent salary increase for teachers that was part of the last collective bargaining agreement will also come from the $1.99 billion.

The government will contribute $309.6 million to early learning and child care this fiscal year.

Of that, $4.3 million will be used to create 6,100 new child care spaces in centers and family child care homes. The province said this is part of its goal to create 28,000 new regulated spaces within the next five years.

Parents with children under six years of age who saw their child care fees reduced by an average of 50 per cent in February, 2022, can soon expect to see retroactive payments going back to July 1, 2021, as the province said those payments are currently being processed.

Meanwhile, a total of $168.6 million has been set aside for building and renovating schools around Saskatchewan.

Included in that is $95.2 million to support planning and construction of 15 new schools and the renovation of five existing schools.

Another $55.9 million has been allocated for preventative and emergency maintenance.

BUDGET FAILS TO INVEST IN EDUCATION: NDP

Despite a record amount of $2.88 billion being spent on education in the upcoming fiscal year, the Saskatchewan NDP feels Wednesday’s budget fails to invest into the sector, pointing out three straight school years disrupted by the pandemic and educators leaving the profession.

“After a disruptive three school years, our students deserve to see a commitment to get them back on track, yet instead we see a budget that doesn’t cover the basic cost of inflation, forcing schools to further cut classrooms and services. This budget proves that the Sask. Party government has lost track of the realities facing Saskatchewan people,” NDP Leader Ryan Meili said.

Education critic Matt Love called the budget “very disappointing” and said it will lead to a lot of frustration for school divisions, teachers and families.

“I can’t stress enough how crucial it was this year to increase that funding as we emerge from the pandemic to make sure that our kids have a chance to recover and succeed,” Love said.

TEACHERS FEDERATION ‘DISAPPOINTED’

The Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) also expressed it’s frustration with Wednesday’s budget, saying the province has again chosen to not make education funding a priority.

According to the STF an increase of 4.7 per cent was required to simply maintain the status quo, adding this budget results in a more than three per cent cut to Kindergarten to Grade 12 operational spending.

“These cuts will directly impact students across the province,” said STF president Patrick Maze in a release.

“It’s in adequate for inflation,” Maze said, adding that the $2.88 billion only produces about a 1.5 per cent increase.

“School divisions will be left with no choice but to cut programs and services that are already underfunded and insufficient to meet students’ needs.”

According to the STF over the last five years Saskatchewan’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 operational budget has not kept pace with increased costs and enrollment, resulting in a five-year funding shortfall of 10 percent.

SASKATCHEWAN SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION

The Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) said another challenge will be that certain costs are not recognized in the budget, such as energy, heating and transportation fleets.

“School divisions are going to have to reallocate within their own budgets to cover that inflationary cost and that’s going to mean our member boards are going to be making some really difficult decisions in the next couple of months,” Shawn Davidson, president of the SSBA said.

ADVANCED EDUCATION

Advanced Education will see a total budget of $740.3 million this fiscal year – an increase of $5.6 million over 2021-22.

The province said it is a sign of strong support for post secondary education, including a commitment to nursing seat expansion.

The province said $4.9 million will be used to create an additional 150 nurse training seats.

“By expanding the nurse training seats, we are helping to ensure post-secondary programs are aligned with the current and future needs of students, the economy, and Saskatchewan communities,” Advanced Education Minister Gene Makowsky said in a release. “Through recruitment, retention and training efforts, we are investing in the health care needs of our province and the commitments outlined in Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan.”

Nearly $38 million has been set aside for direct financial supports for all post-secondary students.

A total of $27 million will be used to support the student loan program, the province said that it will provide repayable and non-repayable financial assistance to more than 20,000 students.

Another $10.6 million has been committed to scholarships that includes $7.1 million for the Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship.

This year’s advanced education budget also includes the continuation of a multi-year commitment from the provincial government to provide an additional $60 million to the sector over the next two years. A commitment that was first made in 2021-22.


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