Education Funding Increase May Not Be Enough for Chinook
Written by Jessica Vallee on Wednesday, 26 March 2014
The 2014-2015 budget was released last week by the Saskatchewan government with a 3.1% increase in operating funds for the education sector.
The Chinook School Division received an increase in overall funding of $81.34 million, based on estimates of student numbers for the next school year. Director of Education Liam Choo-Foo says that while the increase of funding for the education sector is a positive for all school divisions in the province, they won’t be seeing much of the money.
“For us in Chinook, the challenge is the way that increase gets distributed amongst the 28 school divisions, there are population increases in other parts of the province, we’re not experiencing that here, so as a net result we have fewer dollars to work with and that’s going to be a challenge for us as we go forward,” said Choo-Foo.
The budget shows the province collecting revenues of just over $14 billion, down 0.7% from the previous year despite the growing economy. Finance Minister Ken Krawetz admitted the province considered raising the Education Property Tax, but ultimately decided to maintain mill rates at their current levels.
Education is receiving a total of $1.76 billion in funding, with the Ministry of Education receiving an additional $52.4 million from a year ago. School operating funding is up 2.4%.
An increase Chinook approves of is the $24 million is earmarked for preventative and emergency maintenance at schools, a 23.6% increase from last year, but Choo-Foo says it is still not enough.
“The whole program we like, it’s far more responsive, it gives school divisions way more flexibility in addressing some of their maintenance of building needs, such as boiler replacements, flooring replacements, roof replacements, things like that. Unfortunately, our divisions, much like most of them in the province where our schools were built in the 50s and 60s, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and this is a great process. It’s great to have some money it’s just not enough to be able to keep up with the backlog that’s being created over time,” said Choo-Foo.
At Chinook’s AGM held on Monday in Swift Current, the board highlighted the several physical projects that took place during their last fiscal year, six roof replacements, two boiler replacements, renovations, fire alarm upgrades, gym floor replacements and a demolition.
Choo-Foo says that the Board will be closely reviewing spending priorities for the 2014-2015 year, but remain committed to their Strategic Plan which includes Math Momentum and Balanced Literacy as priorities.
He mentions that they are pushing on through the funding shortfalls, however the pattern of funding is making it difficult for the Division to maintain the level of service that children and families expect and are accustomed to.
“At the provincial level it’s certainly nice to see that they acknowledge the importance of education and they have provided some increases for education,” said Choo-Foo.
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