Saturday November 22, 2014

School boards blindsided again by government decision

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They've done it again ... and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) is not pleased.
For the second time in six weeks, the Saskatchewan government has announced a change in education policy without consulting locally-elected school boards, said Sandi Urban-Hall, president of the SSBA.

“In the newspaper, we read that the government intends to increase funding for independent schools to 50 per cent and associate schools to 80 per cent of the provincial average per student,” said Urban-Hall.

“This raises a number of questions for boards of education, such as 'what effect will this change to private schools have on the funding available for children who attend publicly-funded schools? Will there be any impact on the equity of educational opportunities provided to all Saskatchewan students?' These are the kinds of questions and issues that should be discussed before any significant announcements are made.”

Carol Flynn, chairwoman of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division, said that she and her fellow trustees were again caught off guard by the government's decision and announcement, hard on the heels of the previous announcement that no school division in the province would be allowed to begin regular classes in a new academic year before the Labour Day weekend.

While the Labour Day edict will probably not have any economic impact on Cornerstone and other school divisions, the latest decision probably will. But again, without backup information to work with, Flynn said she could only guess what that impact will be.

Since Cornerstone is probably earmarked for a reduction in provincial funding in the upcoming spring budget, this latest decision could make that negative impact an even deeper one.
“I believe independent and associate schools received some type of support funding in the past, but this is increasing that commitment,” Flynn said.

There are believed to be several dozen schools in the province that are registered as private or associate schools and all are required to teach the traditional Saskatchewan curriculum.

“Would I say we were blindsided again? Well, yes, I would,” said Flynn.

“We have no details yet. I'm only going on what I have read in newspapers so far. I already know we're probably going to be drained of some funding this coming year, so I don't know what this will mean on top of that. I would have hoped that the government would have allowed for some sort of consultation. I expect they'll give us some details to work with soon. but right now I don't know how this decision will reflect on us directly. I feel we'll just have to be patient once again and look at it when we get more information.”

“We are calling upon the government to commit to a culture of consultation which will best serve Saskatchewan students, families and communities,” Urban-Hall said in a release issued just prior to the Christmas break.

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