'Chronic underfunding': Saskatoon Public Schools to cut 60 jobs to cover budget shortfall
Saskatoon Public Schools (SPS) says it is making dozens of staffing cuts to balance its operating budget for the 2021-2022 academic year.
The Saskatoon Board of Education approved a budget of $287.7 million, which is an increase of $9.4 million over last year.
But the budget will see more than 60 positions eliminated and school and office budget lines slashed to offset an $8 million shortfall.
"This shortfall is the result of chronic underfunding from the provincial government, particularly for the inflationary pressures we face every year – our utilities bills are going up, our insurance premiums have increased and our growing enrolment requires resources," Board Chair Colleen MacPherson said in a news release.
MacPherson said the division is receiving $344 less per student today than in 2016-17.
The new operating budget includes a reduction in 14 full time office positions, cutting 13.5 full time elementary teaching positions and seven full-time secondary teachers.
Other staffing cuts includes seven full-time English as an Additional Language Teachers and over a dozen school support positions.
“The vast majority of those people will be moving into existing empty positions across our division, comparable positions,” said MacPherson.
Another one of the positions set to be removed is a full-time speech pathologist.
“I know how strapped all of our speech pathologist are at Sask. Public and in the Catholic System as well,” said speech pathologist Jill Frith.
“Especially with the pandemic, a lot of the children have not had services for the last year-and-half. Our waitlist in the health region is horrible.”
School budget lines will be slashed by 10 per cent, while central office budget lines will be cut by 15 per cent.
SPS says operating funding from the province increases two per cent for the year, which mostly covers negotiated teacher salary increases - but not increases for other staff, inflationary costs and rising student needs.
In a statement to CTV News, the Ministry of Education said the 2021-22 provincial budget had record spending of $1.96 billion for school operations.
"In addition to the increase in core operating funding, school divisions are receiving $20.7 million from the COVID-19 contingency fund to ensure proper supports for students are in place for the fall. This funding is from the more than $150 million in the COVID contingency fund that has been made available to school divisions, qualified independent schools and historical high schools."
The ministry also says school divisions will realize more than $3 million of savings from the SaskPower and SGI rebates that have not been adjusted for in the 2021-22 budget.
“I feel like every year they are cutting education. I feel like they should invest more into our kids,” said parent Cameron Black, whose child is not yet in school.
“I feel like a lot of kids these days are struggling with education. I just want the province to care.”