Saskatchewan Education Minister Dustin Duncan says rising fuel and insurance costs are cause for a one-time $20-million top up to the provincial education budget.
“Now that all the (school division) budgets have been submitted we certainly have a better understanding of the inflationary pressures around transportation,” Duncan said in Regina Thursday, “as well as other inflationary pressures like insurance premiums that have been going up across the divisions.”
Duncan told reporters that, as he engaged with Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions while they drafted their budgets for the coming school year, he heard concerns around divisions’ plans to increase class sizes and in some cases combine multiple grades into one classroom.
He said decisions were being made to reduce teacher and staffing levels as divisions redirected money towards fuel and insurance.
“We’re asking school divisions, based on the funding each of them will receive, to submit an amended budget, which we will then review,” he said.
“This does give time in the event that school divisions are going to be using the funding to hire to go through that process and hopefully have those additional positions in place, maybe not for the beginning of the school year but early in the school year.”
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Duncan added that the announcement comes with the province “in a different position budget-wise than we were in the spring.”
“Those numbers aren’t finalized. The first quarter’s not even complete yet, but it looks to be we’re going to be in a different position than we were then,” he said.
“Certainly know that this is not going to address all the concerns they have talked about but school divisions have to make decisions with the dollars they do have.”
As for future plans, Duncan promised his government will “keep an open dialogue with organizations like Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA).”
“We’re going to continue to provide resources where we can,” he said.
“I think there’s a lot of focus on the operational side. The balance of that, though, is we have a significant build across the province when it comes to school divisions building and renovating schools. That has to come from somewhere as well.”
The province’s latest budget included $168.6 million for ongoing capital projects including the construction of 15 new schools and renovations at five more.
More to come…
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