Does it seem that every day there’s more news of school-board budget cuts? Here’s a quick look at what could be on the chopping block in 2014.
Facing a collective budget shortfall of $130 million, but legally prohibited from running a deficit, each board must dip into contingency funds, cut programs and positions, or risk being removed by the provincial government. Continuing education and school bus services have been scaled back in various districts, but the most contentious issue is the elimination of many special education assistant jobs.
Alberta school boards are expecting an additional 11,000 students this year, and the provincial government says it will keep its promises to build or renovate 120 schools and make classes smaller. However, it cut $14.5 million from school boards by freezing per-student funding and curtailing or cancelling programs like English as a Second Language and music enrichment. Last June, hundreds of Edmonton high school students protested the cuts in front of the provincial legislature.
Saskatchewan & Manitoba
There’s good news for students in these two prairie provinces. Since Saskatchewan’s K–12
population has grown by 4,500 in the past two years, the provincial government is increasing school boards’ operating budgets by $40 million. The Manitoba government will also increase funding by $27.2 million for construction and renovation, new teachers, smaller classes, early literacy programs and more. However, critics argue the increases are not enough to keep up with inflation, cover staff salary increases or eliminate the wide achievement gap between First Peoples students and their non-aboriginal peers.
Ontario has seen declining enrollment in recent years; however, a funding model based on a complex series of grants has served as an incentive for many underutilized schools to remain open. Now changes to that system will likely mean school closures across the province. As well, new policy will impact the nearly 20,000 who return for a fifth year of high school each year, a phenomenon held over from Ontario’s Grade 13 days. Students will now be limited to 34 credits total—four more than required to graduate.
Facing $65 million in budget cuts, Quebec boards have been given three choices—reduce costs, increase revenue or dip into previous surpluses, if they have them. Nine of 69 school boards are making cuts to specialized staff this year. These staff members include guidance counselors, speech therapists, psychologists and social workers.
In Nova Scotia, two school boards have put teaching positions on the chopping block, and one of which has also had to reduce bussing and librarian hours. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the four English school boards will be consolidated into one to reduce administrative costs, with the one French school board remaining. However, despite these measures, the province will also be cutting 160 teaching, administrative and support staff positions. The main impact on students will be loss of some special programs usually administered by specialty teachers, which could include music, art and phys ed. Education funding saw a slight increase in P.E.I., plus some funds were saved through school-board amalgamation. And in New Brunswick, nearly $121 million in new education and early childhood development funds will pay for six major school construction projects to be completed in by 2014 and another eight to get underway.
Territorial governments are taking aim at improving outcomes for Inuit youth.Northwest Territories will fund new mental health and addictions programming in schools, and Yukon has earmarked $349,000 to improving programming in rural areas. Nunavut’s Department of Education is targeting new spending to community-based programs that support families with children ages 0–6.
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