Cuts slice into Saskatoon Public Schools education funding as the budget balances out

Saskatoon Public Schools has approved the operating budget for the upcoming school year, but cutbacks have come down to make ends meet.

“We’re appreciative of the additional funding we’ve received,” said SPS board chair Colleen MacPherson.

“That said, there is still chronic underfunding pressures throughout the division we will need to address but the focus of this budget is directly supporting classrooms where the resources are needed most.”

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In March, operational funding was raised to $256 million for the school division from $253.2 million the year before.

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In June, an extra $8 million was added, with $2.7 million allocated to class size and composition of funding, and $5.3 million for enrollment growth.

“The school division is expecting an additional 1,036 students in September 2023, which means our total enrollment will top 28,000,” MacPherson said.

“We are excited to welcome so many new students but with increased enrolment comes increased pressures so we’ve chosen to invest every additional dollar at the classroom level to better support our students and staff.”

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Projected enrollment for September was set at 28,294 students, but SPS noted that projected enrollment the year before was 26,590 with the actual number hitting 27,258.

“The division is proud to welcome so many additional students. However, growth does provide challenges, especially in terms of facility space,” read the report.

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The report also noted that there is a large gap between inflation-adjusted per-student funding and actual per-student funding, supporting this information with a graph.

A graph from Saskatoon Public Schools showing the difference between current per student funding and funding adjusted for inflation.

Saskatoon Public Schools

The school division laid out some of the additions to this year’s budget, as well as some of the cutbacks it has had to make.

Additions include more teaching roles, educational assistants and other staff to contend with the increased enrollment.

Some of the cutbacks listed include:

  • The introduction of a lunch supervision fee of $50 per student per year in secondary schools, similar to the elementary fee established last year. The elementary lunch supervision fee remains unchanged at $100 per student per year to a maximum of $200 per family.
  • recovering a portion of costs for early learning center spaces in schools
  • rental rate increases for after-hour school gym rentals
  • transportation efficiencies
  • The Alternate Education Transition program at Central Office will be dissolved. These students have met graduation requirements and have the opportunity to upgrade two classes for free, similar to any other student who has graduated from Saskatoon Public Schools.
  • A reduced complement of teacher librarians from 6.75 full-time equivalent jobs to 3.0 who will support schools using a centralized model.
  • Elimination of post-pandemic outreach workers and learning support teachers as the one-time funding has been spent.

When asked about there being only three librarians for the whole school division, MacPherson said these were part of the “extraordinarily tough decisions” they had to make to not impact classrooms.

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“You can imagine there used to be a day when every library had a librarian and a technician.”

She said this wasn’t just something negatively impacting Saskatoon Public Schools, but across the entire province.

“We need to think about education funding as an investment, not an expense.”

“We are investing in our own collective future because without a robust, well-funded education system the prospects of a social and economic future become dimmer and dimmer for this province. We have to connect the dots between education and the goals we’ve set as a province for where we want to be in the future,” MacPherson added.

The board said it would continue to advocate for changes in funding from the Ministry of Education.

Some of the SPS improvements are looking to include sustainable funding, funding supports for students with special needs, funding to eliminate the learning disparity for First Nations students, locally negotiated and provincial collective agreements, cost increases to address inflation, the carbon tax and Canada Pension Plan payments, capital funding to prevent breakdowns, insurance claims and service outages, and funding for technology as well as the goals in the newly approved Provincial Education Plan.

School divisions are required to submit their budget to the ministry by July 31.

The Ministry of Education said it will review the 2023-24 Saskatoon Public School Division’s budget once it is received.

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